State saves new courthouse from budget ax
Tehama County's new courthouse project escaped the "indefinitely delayed" list by the state's Court Facilities Working Group on Friday.
The group made recommendations which allows 24 projects to proceed, subject to funding availability or other considerations.
Tehama County sold the state 4.43 acres on Walnut Street in Red Bluff at a cost of $1.2 million for construction of the 62,033-square-foot structure.
The state also agrees to pay the county $130,000 as a relocation payment for the agencies housed in Wetter Hall, which is where the courthouse will stand.
The new courthouse will house five courtrooms and will consolidate and replace the five current court facilities in the county — four in downtown Red Bluff, and one in Corning.
As the working group's recommendations go before Judicial Council on Oct. 26 for review, there are some in the county who are skeptical of the project coming to fruition anytime soon due to state budget cuts.
"Because of the deep cuts to the judicial branch budget -$544 million this last year — our working group was left with the deeply difficult and disappointing task of delaying necessary court construction projects that would have gone ahead under a better fiscal environment," Justice Brad Hill, chair of the Court Facilities Working Group, said in a statement.
"I have to commend those courts that stepped up to the plate and made deep cuts in their own project budgets, and numerous other courts that have pledged to make significant additional cuts."
After the judicial branch budget was slashed earlier this year, Hill and the working group invited each of the 24 courts with one or more of the 31 projects to submit a proposal, demonstrating why each project should move forward with the branch's limited funds.
Once the Judicial Council reviews and either accepts or adjusts the Court Facilities Working Group recommendations, projects slated to move forward will be reviewed by a cost-reduction subcommittee chaired by Justice Jeffrey W. Johnson.
Tehama County's new courthouse was at one time 11th on a list of "immediate need" courthouse construction projects across the state. Where it will fall once all of the reviews are conducted is unknown.
If everything pans out, the courthouse complex designed by award-winning LPA Architecture and Design of Sacramento, will have state-of-the-art security and resolve significant overcrowding, as well as functional deficiencies in the current facilities, said the state's Administrative Office of the Courts. Proposed funding for the project is through a senate bill that finances critically needed courthouse construction, renovation, and repair through a portion of judicial branch fees and penalties.
Tehama County Chief Administrator Bill Goodwin said the old courthouse in Red Bluff is owned by the county, and the county and judicial branch are "joint tenants" of the building.
He said when the state vacates the old courthouse, the county will continue to operate and maintain the 89-year-old historic building — one of the oldest courthouses in the state still in continuous use.
"We haven't decided exactly what it will be used for, but it is included in our future plans," Goodwin said.