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Courthouse project proceeds with site selection

POSTED October 30, 2012 10:10 p.m.

The California Judicial Council has given Stanislaus County its approval to proceed with site acquisition for a new courthouse, although warning the project could face indefinite delays if the funds are not available.

Stanislaus County is considering two sites in downtown Modesto for the future courthouse. One site is between Ninth and 10th streets and G and H streets. The other is between 13th and 14th streets and H and I streets.

The courthouse is currently located at 800 11th Street.

The site will be selected by seven Stanislaus County Superior Court judges. In November the Judicial Council will review the selection and make a final decision on if the project can proceed or not. The decision will largely depend on if California voters approve propositions that would generate more revenue for the state.

Stanislaus County was selected for a new courthouse because the current facility was found to be inadequate to meet the county’s growing caseloads and security features are not up to current standards.

The proposed project would create a courthouse with 26 courtrooms, properly sized and equipped jury assembly and deliberation rooms, rooms for attorney and client interviews and a larger lobby and service counters.

The project would need about 2.9 acres and is estimated to cost $278.3 million.

Stanislaus County was one of 23 projects the Judicial Council gave approval to proceed with, while seven projects were indefinitely delayed.

By fiscal year 2013-2014, nearly $1.5 billion of court user fees originally designated by the Legislature to be set aside for court construction will have been borrowed, transferred to the state General Fund, or redirected to court operations. This year the Legislature directed that $50 million per year be permanently diverted from court construction to trial court operations. 

“Four years of deep budget cuts to the judicial branch—more than 30 percent since the 2008-2009 fiscal year—have required that we radically refocus the court construction program,” said Justice Brad R. Hill, chair of the Court Facilities Working Group and Administrative Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District. “It’s been a difficult and painful process to freeze certain projects and direct cost-cutting across the board in all others, but we’re grateful for the continued collaboration, flexibility, and creative thinking of the courts in this process.”

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