Courthouse plans for Modesto, Sonora, Los Banos stay alive

jsbranti@modbee.comDecember 13, 2012 

— Plans to build new courthouses in Modesto, Sonora and Los Banos made it through another round of budget cuts Thursday.

Court construction projects in Fresno, Sacramento, Nevada City and Los Angeles were axed instead to save the state more than $550 million.

California's Court Facilities Working Group voted for the cuts Thursday during a special meeting. That group's recommendation will be taken to the state's full Judicial Council next month for final approval.

For now at least, the local projects are good to go.

The latest round of courthouse cuts was caused by California lawmakers shifting about $600 million in Long Beach court expenses to the state's courthouse construction budget.

That money will be used to cover leasing costs for a privately built Long Beach courthouse, which will be finished next fall.

Twenty-four other California courthouses construction projects — not counting the ones in Long Beach and Stockton — previously had been approved. Now only 20 will be built.

They include the long-planned $278.3 million Modesto courthouse, the $69.2 million Sonora courthouse and the $32.2 million Los Banos courthouse.

"We are very pleased with the (Court Facilities Working Group), which clearly understands the critical need for our courthouse," Stanislaus County Presiding Judge Ricardo Cordova said Thursday. "We will now await the final decision from the Judicial Council, which will take place Jan. 17."

For more than two years, plans have proceeded for an eight-story courthouse to replace Stanislaus' rundown facility at 800 11th St.

State officials this fall gave the go-ahead to purchase an entire block of downtown Modesto for a new courthouse, but exactly where it will go hasn't been decided yet.

The Modesto sites being considered are:

The block where the city of Modesto and its redevelopment agency own property between Ninth and 10th streets and G and H streets. Private landowners there include G&K (Reed) Enterprises, Gary Gervasoni, Helen Silva, Gina Rugani and Curtis Mote.

The block where The Bee leases space between 13th and 14th streets and H and I streets. That 2.75-acre block was sold in April 2011 to a group of investors from Visalia and San Luis Obispo.

A couple of months ago, state officials were supposed to reveal which Modesto site they prefer. That got delayed because of budget cuts.

When the site selection will be announced isn't known, but it won't be until after the Jan. 17 meeting.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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