In August, Stanislaus and 15 other counties were told they could complete whatever phase of their new courthouse plans they were in, then needed to stop.
For Stanislaus County, that meant finishing the design phase of its projected $262 million downtown building.
Tuolumne County, which was further along in its planning to replace its 118-year-old building in Sonora at a cost of $65 million, could proceed to the point at which the state fire marshal could sign off on the new project.
Stanislaus officials continued their work, but will find out Thursday whether they will need to send their designers back to the drafting tables. Their schematic design is within the scope of the project and within budget after the state demanded a 14 percent reduction in hard construction costs. They will meet with the Judicial Council of California’s Courthouse Cost Reduction Subcommittee, which could recommend changes without adding funding to cover them. That, Stanislaus County Court Executive Officer Rebecca Fleming said, could force alterations that would reduce the square footage of the planned 27-courtroom building.
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“We don’t have a problem with upgrades,” she said. “But if they want it upgraded, they need to fund it.”
And there is no indication the state will commit to more money, should it become available and construction begin in 2018, she said.
The proposed upgrades include using precast concrete instead of plaster, engineered tiles instead of polished concrete and enclosing the mechanical “penthouse” on the rooftop with walls instead of fencing. All told, the upgrades would cost about $4 million. Without the state adding money to cover it, the county would be forced to cut back somewhere, and that could include lopping as many as four courtrooms – an entire floor – to stay within budget. It would involve additional architectural costs because of the redesign.
Last summer, and after several projects were completed or nearing completion, the Judicial Council’s Facilities Committee announced that the funding for future courthouse construction is in dire shape, in part because the state took about $1.4 billion during its budget crisis, which it has not repaid, and because revenue from court fees and fines that pays for new courthouses has fallen sharply.
Want to go?
The meeting will start at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in San Francisco. To review the agenda and supporting materials as well as listen to the meeting live, go to www.courts.ca.gov/cfac.htm.