Nevada County Courthouse renovation moves up state funding list
The potential rehabilitation of the Nevada County Courthouse inched a little closer to reality earlier this week.
While it’s up in the air as to whether funding for the project will make it into the state budget in January, the courthouse in Nevada City is now at No. 3 on the list.
The funding project, which has been “indefinitely delayed” since 2013, made it on to a statewide list of 80 trial court capital outlay projects earlier this year. Those projects were ranked in order of need, from immediate through low. Initially Nevada County’s courthouse was ranked as a “critical” need and was No. 11 on the list.
But after a Tuesday meeting of the Court Facilities Advisory Committee in San Francisco, Nevada County moved up the ranking to being an “immediate” need. The report estimates the Nevada County Courthouse project at $91.8 million.
Nevada County Court Executive Officer Jason Galkin cautioned that does not mean funding for the courthouse is a given.
“Unfortunately I don’t have a crystal ball,” Galkin said. “But the improvement in the ranking does increase the likelihood that funding will occur sooner rather than later. … I’m cautiously optimistic.”
The next hurdle is a mid-November meeting of the Judicial Council, where members will be asked to approve the final report that will be submitted to the Legislature in December.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initial budget is released in January, the hope is that court capital outlay projects will be in that initial proposal, Galkin said.
“That’s when we’ll get a first glimpse of (whether) projects are included,” he said. “If (Nevada County) is in there, I will start to feel a little excited.”
There will be a May revise before the final budget comes out in June.
Nevada County’s courthouse, which has had multiple 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.
Then, about 14 months ago, the governor and state Legislature changed how the projects receive funding. A new method of analysis was developed to determine the need of the various projects.
The reassessment that moved Nevada County up the list is due to more emphasis being placed on seismic risk, said Blaine Corren, a Public Affairs Analyst for the Judicial Council.
“That change in methodology affected many of the projects that moved up on the priority list, including the project in Nevada County,” Corren said. “New courthouse projects that would replace existing facilities with a high or very high seismic risk rating were eligible to receive points.”
“The (Nevada County) courthouse is a historic building that was not built to modern-day seismic standards,” Galkin said.
Keeping it downtown
A delegation from Nevada City attended Tuesday’s meeting, including former Nevada County Supervisor Nate Beason, Grass Valley City Councilman Duane Strawser, City Engineers Bryan McAlister and Bill Falconi and Nevada City Manager Catrina Olson, as well as Paul Matson, head of the Nevada City Courthouse Committee.
Matson urged committee members to keep the courthouse downtown, referencing the 2015 feasibility put together by RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture Inc. Michael Ross of that firm gave a presentation to the committee outlining the “significant savings” in re-using the old site.
“Our hope is that re-use would strengthen our case (for funding), because it would save the state money,” Matson said.
Galkin acknowledged the Nevada County Courthouse project is currently listed as a new construction project at a different site. But, he said, he was told that is just “placeholder” language and does not preclude the project taking place at the existing facility.
“If the project is funded, we would go into site selection again,” Galkin said.
“It does feel that we are kind of starting back pretty close to square one,” Galkin said of the requirement for another site discussion. “But I’m appreciative that our need continues to be acknowledged as so significant.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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