MODESTO -- Plans to build a massive new courthouse in downtown Modesto have made it through one roadblock, but there are more obstacles ahead.
California had planned to build 31 courthouses including in Modesto, Sonora and Los Banos but budget cuts are making the state re-evaluate construction plans.
Recently, seven of those proposed courthouses were "indefinitely delayed" by California's Court Facilities Working Group.
That group recommended Modesto, Sonora and Los Banos should be allowed to proceed with building plans, but that doesn't mean it's a done deal.
"What's happening is very much in flux," said Leanne Kozak, spokeswoman for the California courts.
The next step will be Oct. 26 when the state's Judicial Council votes.
Even then, Kozak said, there is no guarantee money will be available to build the proposed $278.3 million Modesto courthouse, the $69.2 million Sonora courthouse or the $32.2 million Los Banos courthouse. "Any decision to proceed is subject to funding being available and it does not imply any money has been earmarked for that project," she explained.
Stanislaus County court officials still were happy that Modesto's project has made it through so far. The next step in the process is to buy land in downtown Modesto for the courthouse.
Two sites are being considered for purchase:
The block where the city of Modesto and its redevelopment agency own property between Ninth and 10th streets and G and H streets
The block where The Bee leases space between 13th and 14th streets and H and I streets
Presiding Judge Ricardo Córdova and others presented a 15-minute slide show last week to convince the Court Facilities Working Group that Modesto needs a new courthouse.
Michael Tozzi, Stanislaus County's court executive officer, said they emphasized the need to buy the courthouse land now because further delays might make it impossible to find a suitable downtown site.
Tozzi said the state's Office of Courthouse Construction and Management knows which of the two downtown sites it wants. If the Judicial Council agrees Oct. 26 to let Modesto's courthouse proceed, then Tozzi said the final site will be announced at a project advisory group meeting in November.
Once the site is acquired, Tozzi said, "we're ready to work with the architect to reduce the overall cost of building the courthouse."
The Sonora and Los Banos projects also will be required to review staffing and operations before proceeding with courthouse designs.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.