OPINION: $10-Million Courthouse in Newport

Staff Writer

Dear Editor:
I am responding to the article entitled ‘Governor Earmarks $10 Million to Newport’ (New
Courthouse Planned) dated Tuesday, November 17, 2020. It is true that in January the governor
committed 1.5 million in search for a new location for the old post office building to include
planning, property acquisition and design. It did not take much imagination to realize that the
former Spates Block would be the site selected for such a purpose. On the floor of the General
Assembly, I stated, “that for the state to acquire the empty lot in downtown Newport and build a
new court facility on the former Spates Block premises would be equivalent to filling in one hole
and creating another in its place!”
The article states that the courthouse needs continuous repairs, but I would recommend that a
good architect with plans for expansion and updates could be made for much less then the state
spending $10 million for acquiring the property and building a new facility. (There were plans
drawn up at one time for such an expansion.) If the Vermont Department of Buildings and
General Services (BGS) and our court system is having difficulty keeping up repairs, then what
can we as residents of Newport expect from a developer who will acquire the building. BGS has
already reached out to the Jay Peak receiver on the state purchasing the Spates Block. If all
parties can reach an agreement, then the project will be underway. All this without any public
discussion from the citizens of Newport. The article exclaims that “the Newport community at
large is thinking about different ways to invest in the community.” The Acting Commissioner of
BGS also stated that “the city has great ideas and a plan.” Who represents the Newport
community at large? Why have these ideas and plans not been shared? Let the citizens of
Newport see these great ideas and plans to determine if they meet current and future community
needs. Now is the time for public meetings for such an important project in our downtown.
I believe that officials within our city government, members of law enforcement and the judicial
system assigned to the Emerson Building as well as the Scott Administration want what is best
for Newport. We can also agree that Newport requires a vision to attract tourists and future
citizens to the area. I am just not inclined to believe that a new courthouse situated on Main
Street is the landmark that is needed. Newport deserves better then what is currently being
​proposed. Let us be honest, it is the residents of Newport that will have to live with the results
and now is the time to let officials know what our thoughts and ideas are.
VT House of Representatives