Motorists on Highway 108 have been able to see work commencing on another phase of the Tuolumne County Law and Justice Center campus this week, as workers started breaking ground Monday and Tuesday on 4.3 acres where the new $65 million Tuolumne County Superior Courthouse building will be built.

The work site is off of Old Wards Ferry Road just south of Highway 108 within view of the backside of The Crossroads Shopping Center.

Workers in orange-and-neon green reflective vests, white or yellow helmets, some with gloves on, were busy Friday in heavy machines and on foot, in an expanse of bare, orange-red, recently excavated earth and dirt-encrusted boulders and some downed trees and shrubs. Tarps and sheets of plastic were spread out in some areas. Some places were fenced-off with orange netting and black fabric.

“What people are seeing here right now is called grubbing and grading,” Maureen Frank, a deputy county administrator, said Friday next to the work site on Justice Center Drive. “The contractors have surveyed the property and put in protective measures on site around sensitive features. Trees that are going to remain, drainage areas they need to stay out of. The orange netting is around areas they need to protect. That black silk fencing is on a drainage area.”

Frank pointed at linear straw bundles staked down next to the chain-link fence at the work site’s edge. She said they are erosion-control measures required by the State Water Board to prevent any material from coming off the work site during heavy rains. Straw wattles and burlap jute roll were set up on some slopes for erosion, sediment and storm water runoff control. The erosion-control measures are required at any site year-round, not just because of forecasts for potentially heavy rains this weekend in the Mother Lode and the rest of the Central Sierra.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the courthouse work site is planned in March, Frank said.

The new courthouse will be about 61,500 square feet on property the state purchased from the county for $800,000. Frank said state planners hope to have the courthouse completed 18 months from now, by the end of July 2020.

It will be one of a half-dozen new facilities at the law and justice center campus when it’s all finished. Completed so far are the $20 million Mother Lode Regional Juvenile Detention Facility that opened in April 2017, and a $2 million bus stop building called the Tuolumne Transit Center that opened in late 2017.

More workers in heavy machinery and on foot were busy Friday on the work site for the $40 million county jail that will be called the Sheriff J.H. “Jack” Dambacher Detention Center. Frank said county planners hope to have the jail completed by late October.

The jail will be about 63,000 square feet, about three times larger than the juvenile detention center.

Also in planning phases for the law and justice center campus are two county criminal justice administration buildings, with room for district attorney’s offices and public defender’s offices, as well as room for other outside attorneys, and a future Sheriff’s Office administration building.

Frank said she was not sure how many jobs have resulted from ongoing construction projects, but she emphasized contract workers are spending money locally.
The jail and juvenile detention center were funded primarily from $50 million in state grants, and the county is paying more than $18 million through lease-revenue bonds.

The state courthouse building was funded in June when then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $201 billion state budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that provided $1.3 billion for 10 courthouse projects, including the one in Sonora that was delayed more than a year due to lack of funding.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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