Courthouse project moves forward

Written by Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat September 18, 2012 07:02 am

The project to build a new courthouse in Tuolumne County appears to be moving forward, despite $455 million in spending cuts to court projects around the state.

A State Administrative Office of the Courts Judicial Council oversight group is recommending the new Sonora courthouse proceed with preliminary plans. That recommendation was part of an announcement last week that the oversight group is also recommending the Judicial Council indefinitely delay seven of the 31 court projects that were supposed to receive funding this year.

The Tuolumne County Courthouse is a centerpiece of the long-discussed Law and Justice Center, off Old Wards Ferry Road.

The Judicial Council will consider the working group’s recommendations at a meeting Oct. 26. And leading up to the meeting, the working group will also discuss each individual project that still has a green light to try and find further possible cost reductions, said Leanne Kozak, Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman.

“They are going to go over all the proposals with a fine-toothed comb,” Kozak said. 

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 replace the two court buildings in downtown Sonora.

Jeanne Caughell, Executive Officer of Tuolumne County Court, said the local project is still entering the preliminary planning stage. That means there isn’t a specific plan or blueprint to alter at this point.