Memo for fiscal year 2017, updated 2016-04-05

[Archived] Can you please provide a refresh of FY 2015 Budget Memo 18 (the section relating to courthouse safety and security)? Has the review and certification referenced in 2014 been completed?

The 2009 General Assembly provided a process for localities to assess and collect an additional $3 for courthouse construction or renovations on top of the $2 fee already authorized for courthouse construction and maintenance. The new $3 fee, however can only be imposed if the Virginia Department of General Services (VA-DGS) certifies the courthouse as non-compliant with specific safety and security guidelines contained in the Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines. Therefore, on September 14, 2015, the City submitted an application to the State to have the Alexandria Courthouse evaluated to determine compliance with these safety and security guidelines contained in the Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines, per Section 17.1-281 of the Code of Virginia in order to be authorized to impose the additional $3 fee to provide funding for renovation, construction or capital maintenance needs at the Courthouse.

On September 23, 2015, the VA-DGS Services conducted a walkthrough of the facility with City staff. On September 24, 2015, based on the walkthrough of the facility and supporting documentation provided by the City, VA-DGS certified that the Alexandria Courthouse, including the General District, Circuit Court and Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court are in non-compliance with Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines, Second Edition. This certification of non-compliance by the VA-DGS authorizes the City to assess and collect an additional $3 to the existing Courthouse filing fee to be used for courthouse construction or renovation on top of the $2 fee already authorized for courthouse construction and maintenance. The additional $3 fee, or $5 total, is the maximum authorized by the 2009 General Assembly for localities to assess and collect for courthouse construction or renovation.

The proposed increase in the Courthouse filing fee from the current $2 to $5 will generate an estimated $70,000 in additional revenue annually, for a total of approximately $120,000 per year, which can be used to correct the non-compliant items identified in the VA-DGS inspection report and/or other construction, renovation or maintenance requirements at the Courthouse. Of the 113 items found to be non-compliant by the State, most could be classified into five major categories:

Based on the 113 items identified as non-compliant by the State and the associated costs, staff anticipate correction of these non-compliant items over the next four fiscal years. Twenty three non-compliant items will be addressed in FY 2017, estimated to cost approximately $91,500, and will include:

  1. Public information, signage and wayfinding ($25,000): The provision of electronic public information signage and wayfinding directory and related monitors, software and hardware;
  2. ADA compliance ($12,000): Make each courtroom ADA compliant by providing a portable ADA ramp for each jury box and witness stand and installation of a wheelchair lift for the Judge’s bench;
  3. Safety and security ($27,000): Installation of Threat Level III ballistic panels at the Judges’ benches.
  4. Technical resources ($27,500): Replacement and repairs of courtroom audio/video systems.

Approximately 13 non-complaint projects can be addressed each fiscal year over the next four years contingent upon the amount of fee revenue collected.

The majority of the items identified by the State address operational requirements including ADA access, parking, signage, security, sound amplification, staff workstation size, and crowd circulation. The items identified by the State and included in the Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines differ from the capital replacement requirements identified in the City's recent building assessment. The City’s assessment identified facility capital replacement requirements at the Courthouse that were based on the building condition and were primarily those building systems and elements that have reached the end of their estimated useful life (i.e. windows, doors, fire alarm systems, lighting, finishes, etc.) unlike the State assessment which focused on operational requirements. The only items that were identified in both studies were environmental controls (i.e. heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)). From the State’s perspective the environmental controls were identified because the controls are inadequate and the temperatures were determined to be uncomfortable (i.e. an operational item). The City assessment identified HVAC because the existing systems are past their estimated useful life.

The City assessment identified approximately $7.0 million in HVAC related capital replacement requirements at the Courthouse. The proposed FY 2017 CIP currently includes $2.0 million in FY 2024 for HVAC capital replacements at the Courthouse, or only 28 percent of the funding required to address all of the HVAC capital replacement requirements at the Courthouse.

The purpose of the courthouse fees is to address the issues identified by the State that focus on operational requirements, as well as minor capital repairs and renovations at the Courthouse. Due to the scope and cost, HVAC capital replacements will be addressed in the CIP.

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