Windsor County voters consider $2M fixes for courthouse - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Windsor County voters consider $2M fixes for courthouse

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WOODSTOCK, Vt. -

Assistant Windsor County Judges David Singer and Jack Anderson are proud of their courthouse. In many ways, the building, which was finished in 1855 and sits on the town green, is almost like a museum. Original benches and fixtures remain.

"It's the most prominent public building here in Woodstock. It is a gorgeous piece of history," Anderson said.

But the courthouse, which handles civil cases, needs a lot of work. None of the bathrooms are handicapped accessible, neither is the rest of the building for that matter. There is only one entrance, so if the door gets blocked, the emergency exit is out a second-floor window. It also lacks proper security.

"We need handicapped accessibility, life safety, security, air conditioning and also we need to make some upgrades to the building that will improve its efficiency," Anderson said.

Work will begin this fall if Windsor County voters approve a $2 million bond. Half the money will be used to build an addition off the back which will include an elevator.

"And I think it is important for our fellow Vermonters that this building stays available," Singer said.

Homeowners with a $200,000 house would see a $5 increase on their tax bill every year for the next 10 years.

"It's essentially a play on words; you bond with your neighbors. You may not need it; you may think you can't afford the $5. And you know for some people $5 is a lot of money," Singer said.

But Singer says in the long run, it's worth it. The plans also include a holding cell, so criminal trials can take place here, an addition they say will speed up the judicial process.

"We only have one criminal courtroom in the entire county-- one. And so when people wonder how long it takes my cousin, who has been in jail for three months, it's because we don't have the space," Singer said.

"This building belongs to the property owners and taxpayers of Windsor County. It serves the people of Windsor County and we are asking every one of the property owners in the county to share a little bit," Anderson said.

A larger renovation project was rejected by voters in the late 1990s. However, backers of this scaled-down version say it achieves the same goal, keeping the building viable for another 100 years.

Both of the assistant judges will be traveling the county making their pitch to voters from now until Town Meeting Day which is March 5.

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