Nevada County Courthouse a ‘critical need,’ according to new project list
The long-delayed rehabilitation of the Nevada County Courthouse has had new life breathed into it, with state officials now labeling it a “critical need.”
The project, called “indefinitely delayed” since 2013, appeared Thursday before the Judicial Council’s Court Facilities Advisory Committee in San Francisco. It’s one of 80 projects listed in a revised report of trial court capital outlay projects — a development that puts it in a much better position to receive funding.
The report estimates the Nevada County Courthouse project at $93.5 million.
However, no funding is guaranteed and the list could change, said Jason Galkin, court executive officer of Nevada County Superior Court.
“For us, the higher we are ranked, the more likely we get approval, sooner rather than later,” Galkin said. “We are in pretty dire need here.”
A public comment period about the revised project list is open until Sept. 13. The committee will examine a final report Oct. 1. If approved, the Judicial Council will review the report at a November meeting. The state Legislature should receive it before year’s end, said Blaine Corren, a public affairs analyst with the Judicial Council, in an email.
“It’s very important,” said Paul Matson, head of the Nevada City Courthouse Committee. “It’s important to our court system, which is a function of the state of California. It’s incredibly important to Nevada City to maintain the courthouse in its existing location.”
The courthouse, which has had additions over the decades, has been called “unsafe, substandard, overcrowded and functionally deficient” by the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. It was slated for renovation, though money issues and a move by state officials to use construction funds to fill budget shortfalls led in 2013 to the local project being labeled indefinitely delayed.
“There were a handful of projects that were indefinitely delayed,” Galkin said.
Then, about 14 months ago, the governor and state Legislature changed how the projects receive funding, said Steven Jahr, a retired Shasta County Superior Court judge, during Thursday’s meeting.
These projects now compete with other general fund construction dollars. That means if structures are designed and built effectively, and construction dollars won, the program should be sustained, Jahr said.
Additionally, a new method of analysis was developed to determine the need of the various projects.
Mike Courtney, director of the Judicial Council Facilities Services, said his office examined 213 buildings to create the facility assessment.
Four projects have an immediate need — the highest level. Twenty-five are critical, the next highest. The Nevada County Courthouse falls into that category.
“Funding for an improved courthouse in Nevada County is long overdue,” CEO Alison Lehman said in an email. ”The current courthouse is functionally deficient, and our community deserves a facility that would improve access, safety and efficiency. The county stands ready to support a project that meets these goals and best serves our community.”
Galkin said safety and security are the courthouse’s primary needs.
Security currently exists, but the Sheriff’s Office and contracted front door staff are overtaxed, Galkin said.
“That’s a big factor,” he added. “Another factor that goes into it is just the age of the building.”
The courthouse also has issues with overcrowding and use of space. It needs jury assembly and training rooms. It also suffers from accessibility issues.
“We do our best to make the building as accessible as possible,” Galkin said. “We have a significant parking issue, which is true for Nevada City at large.”
Galkin emphasized that the $93.5 million noted in the project list isn’t yet guaranteed for the courthouse. The projects must go through the initial approval process, and then be passed by the state Legislature.
Some projects could receive approval and not others. The construction timeline could stretch into years.
“We are long overdue to see this need addressed,” Galkin said.
To contact City Editor Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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