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Nevada County Courthouse plan not in stone

 

FILE — Nevada City Courthouse, pictured in this January file photo.
Submitted by Steve Hillis

A problem with the existing Nevada County Courthouse is that its current design can’t assure security.

Two architects — Alan Bright, senior principal, and David Crotty, principal of the HOK firm — explained their take on the proposal from a functionality and cost perspective at a Thursday public hearing.

The state is looking at remodeling the courthouse at its current location, rebuilding the existing building, or relocating it at a new site. A study released by the Judicial Council of California, the body that will make the decision, makes relocation the top pick.



A Facilities Advisory Committee, which held the Thursday meeting, will now review and deliberate on the findings. It could recommend a project option at its June 17 meeting. A decision by the judicial council could happen the following month, said Blaine Corren, public affairs officer with the Judicial Council of California.

No decision has been made.



Building a new courthouse somewhere along the Golden Chain Highway would be a better choice. But to put things in clear context, Crotty said, the study is not a final draft.

“Today’s study is a concept design,” he said. “(This option) is not necessarily downtown, but it is near downtown,” he said.

Additionally, relocation would provide adequate parking, accommodate sheriff’s deputies, allow parking for judicial staff and remove the need for a basement for holding defendants.

Judge Robert Tice-Raskin, presiding judge of Nevada County Superior Court, praised the JCC for its efforts.

“We of the bench are absolutely elated plans for the superior courthouse are well underway,” he said. “The judges of this court are truly pleased that Nevada County is slated to have a state-of-the-art courthouse to meet the important justice needs of our community as a whole for years to come.”

CRITICAL ELEMENTS

One of the critical elements hampering the choice of keeping the courthouse at its current location was the required need for a 25-foot setback of the building at its present site. That setback provides a security measure against any vehicle that may get close enough to the building that could launch an attack at the courthouse, said Bright.

According to Bright, traffic on Washington Street at the back of the courthouse would need to be closed. Additionally, bollards would be installed along a section of Main Street to steer traffic away from the courthouse and restrict parking along Church Street.

A complete rebuild of a new structure at the current site offers similar constraints, though it does have more flexibility, Crotty said. It would have 17-foot floor-to-floor ceiling clearance and a 36-foot grid courtroom configuration. However, parking would still be an obstacle.

Additionally, relocating the courthouse is the cheapest option at $172 million. The second choice — a complete rebuild of the existing building — would cost $247 million. The third choice — remodeling the existing building — would cost $220 million.

The courthouse has specific functional requirements. It cannot be an empty warehouse turned into a court facility.

“But we also looked at your government administration center,” he said of the Eric Rood Administrative Center. “That has enough real estate currently to accommodate the functionality aspects of our courthouse standards.”

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at wroller@theunion.com


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