Funding uncertain for Law and Justice Center

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

With the state already tight on funds for court-related projects, a proposal for a new courthouse in Tuolumne County could face further cuts or delays.

According to the state Administrative Office of the Courts, the new Sonora courthouse is one of 23 projects with uncertain futures due to redirection of funding to a major court project in Long Beach.

The local project, which is a centerpiece of the long-discussed Law and Justice Center off Old Wards Ferry Road, has survived multiple budget cuts totalling hundreds of millions of dollars for statewide court construction this year.

A working group with the state office's Judicial Council will decide next Thursday which of the pending projects will get shelved or see cuts, said Teresa Ruano, spokeswoman for the council.

"That includes the Sonora project," Ruano said.

"It's really up to the working group," she said later when asked what criteria will be used in the decision

The additional funding issue is tied to a $490 million courthouse project in Long Beach that will require funds from a state program set up to support $5 billion in court construction projects.

According to reports,the state was initially going to lease the private Long Beach court for $50 million annually using money from the General Fund before turning to the court funds.

The Sonora court project is still in its planning stages, and the county sold the land for the courthouse to the state in June for $800,000. Though the courthouse is a state project, it will be built on the site of a multi-agency law and justice campus that is proposed to include a new jail, juvenile detention center, law enforcement stations and court offices.

The county finished approximately $2.86 million in infrastructure work for the entire campus, including utilities and road improvements, earlier this year.

The courthouse proposal called for a two-story, five-courtroom building to open by 2014 and replacethe two court buildings in downtown Sonora.

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The Union Democrat
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