Construction of a new Stanislaus Superior Courthouse in downtown Modesto could begin next year with the approval of a California state budget that set aside funding for it.
The new Modesto courthouse — a 300,000 square-foot building with 27 courtrooms — is expected to cost about $262 million. The building would be located in a lot along H Street, between Ninth and 10th streets.
The new building would replace scattered court facilities, which include the Modesto main courthouse on 11th and I streets, that are overcrowded, lack security features up to current standards and hinder efficiency.
The project is still listed in the architectural design-preliminary planning phase. Stanislaus Superior Court Chief Executive Officer Hugh Swift said Thursday afternoon that the project would receive about $15 million for working drawings if the currently proposed state budget is enacted.
"This is the next phase in the project," Swift said. "We anticipate that the working drawings will be completed in 2018-19, and construction would begin in fiscal year 2019-20."
The proposed state budget also establishes a plan to pay about $237 million in construction costs for the Modesto courthouse. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the budget by July 1.
"As far as I know, if the proposed budget is passed, the project will receive the funding necessary to complete the construction of the new courthouse," Swift said. "The total cost may include funding for the design drawings, which have been completed."
The budget proposes the state issue what are called lease revenue bonds over the next two years to pay for construction of 10 projects, including courthouses in Modesto and Sonora. The general fund would pay back the debt.
The Tuolumne Superior Courthouse project is listed in the architectural design-working drawings phase and is expected to cost about $64 million. The new 61,000 square-foot courthouse in Sonora would house five courtrooms.
The Judicial Council of California — the policy maker for the state courts — has said funding for 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 revenue from court fees and fines that pays for new courthouses has fallen sharply.
Officials say the Modesto courthouse project will consolidate court services from seven facilities into one building, increasing efficiency. It would improve security by creating enhanced entrance screening and separate hallways for the public, staff and defendants in custody, along with properly sized holding areas for defendants.