State budget allocation for state court operations, not Nevada County courthouse project |

State budget allocation for state court operations, not Nevada County courthouse project

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

A budget compromise between Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature’s Democratic leaders, which largely mirrors his proposal for a fiscally restrained spending plan, proposes a $63 million restoration to courthouse operations.

Unfortunately for advocates vying for the restoration, revamp or rebuild of Nevada County’s aged courthouse, Monday’s state budget compromise would provide no funds to statewide courthouse construction projects.

“The legislature determines how the budget will be used, and it will all be used for operations. Not facilities,” said the Judicial Council’s spokeswoman, Teresa Ruano.

The recent compromise allocation is still less than the $100 million lawmakers sought.

“The proposed budget is an initial step forward in restoring the cuts absorbed by the branch,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in a statement.

“We hope that as the state’s economy improves, the branch’s budget will improve so that we can rebuild the kind of access to justice the public deserves,” she said.

The nearly 150-year-old Nevada County Courthouse, which overlooks the historic downtown of Nevada City, was originally poised for a $108 million upgrade after the Administrative Office of the Courts first determined Nevada City’s courthouse is “unsafe, substandard, overcrowded and functionally deficient” in 2009. However, those plans unraveled as budget reallocations from courthouse funds forced the state judicial branch to put the project on indefinite delay in January.

In lieu of current state funding for the courthouse, a coalition of Nevada City courthouse advocates is pushing to locally fund the first step of a potential rebuild or renovation.

Nevada City’s government has already committed $30,000 to the $94,000 feasibility and cost engineering study, arguing that other agencies, such as Nevada County and Grass Valley, should also contribute because it will make the proposed project more attractive should funding ever become available.

“It affects the county economy more so than just our little city,” said Nevada City Councilman Robert Bergman.

Also a member of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council, Bergman said he and City Manager David Brennan recently addressed that agency on supporting the endeavor — describing his fellow ERC directors’ reception of the endeavor as warm.

“It was well-received,” he said. “People were paying attention and asking questions.”

The committee has tapped Michael Ross and Associates to conduct the study because the firm has performed work for the Administrative Office of the Courts on numerous construction projects, Brennan noted.

Additionally, Paul Menard from the Administrative Office of the Courts project management group and one of the organization’s architects have been assigned to work with Nevada City during the study. That familiarity has prompted the AOC to endorse the potential independent study as if were its own, its spokespeople have told The Union.

Nevada City’s initial study contribution was officially approved Wednesday when the town’s council ratified expenditures of the first revenues of the most recent local sales tax increase.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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