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Funding approved for new county courthouse
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The plan to build a new state-of-the-art courthouse in Stanislaus County moved one step closer Monday with the funding approval coming from the state board helping oversee the project.

The State Public Works Board authorized the funding of $278.3 million for the courthouse construction project. The project will be managed by the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which previously deemed the Stanislaus County courthouse as having “immediate and critical needs” that support a new facility.

"Today is a landmark and joy-filled day for the judges, staff, lawyers and all residents of Stanislaus County who need and use the resources available in our court facilities,” said Presiding Judge Jack M. Jacobson of the Superior Court of Stanislaus County. “There are so many people to thank. Our special appreciation, however, goes to the state Administrative Office of the Courts for recognizing the needs of this community and for responding to those needs. We can't get the new courthouse built fast enough.”

The proposed project would replace seven facilities, including the current downtown Modesto courthouse and hall of records, three leased facilities in downtown Modesto, and two small single-courtroom branch courts in Ceres and Turlock. The project will enable the court to increase efficiency by retiring leases and centralizing operations that are currently dispersed in several locations, said Michael Tozzi, the executive officer of Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The proposed building would house 26 courtrooms in a high-rise of approximately eight stories totaling 301,400 square feet. The proposed project would include space for new judgeships and enable the court to provide basic services currently not possible because of space limits, including a self-help center; an appropriately sized public lobby and service counters; a properly sized jury assembly room and jury deliberation rooms, and rooms for family court mediation and attorney/client interviews, as well as a children’s waiting room, Tozzi said. The plan also includes surface parking for 100 staff, visitors, and jurors.

“Strengthening the physical foundation of our judicial system is more than a metaphor,” said Chief Justice Ronald M. George of the state Judicial Council. “Courthouses are as vital a part of California’s infrastructure as bridges, highways, and water systems. It is time to adequately fund this fundamental component of the infrastructure of our democracy. Public safety and the interests of 38 million Californians require it.”

The funding for the project is coming from an account established by the governor and the legislature in 2008. SB 1407 was enacted to provide up to $5 billion in funding for critically needed new and renovated court facilities using increased court fees and criminal fines. The initial funding approval allows the AOC to proceed with finding a site selection.

The courthouse project is estimated by the AOC to create more than 2,000 direct and indirect jobs as it progresses. The project is scheduled for completion by spring 2016.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.