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Our View: Oyez, oyez, a new courthouse is on the way

Posted: November 20, 2009 3:48 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
It took more than 10 years of advocacy, but Santa Clarita is finally on track to get something it sorely needs: a new county courthouse.

Last Monday, the state Public Works Board added Santa Clarita to its list of courthouses to be built in the next five years. It was the final step in the state’s approval process.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and our local judges, past and present, deserve a great deal of credit for getting Santa Clarita onto the state’s “critical needs” list.

And make no mistake, it is a critical need. Santa Clarita’s current courthouse was built in 1971 only to handle felony arraignments, civil trials, misdemeanor cases and infractions for a valleywide population of about 70,000.

Since that time the municipal and superior courts have merged and our valley’s population has grown to 250,000.

The local courthouse hasn’t kept pace, as anyone who has had to wait for a court date or travel to court in San Fernando or beyond can tell you.

If you worry that we shouldn’t count our new courtrooms before they hatch because Sacramento is broke, you can take some comfort in knowing the money isn’t coming out of the state’s disappearing general fund.

Under a Senate bill passed in 2008, financing for 41 newly built or reconstructed courthouses will be repaid through court fees, penalties and assessments.

You might say the courthouses will be funded by the criminals themselves — as they should be.

Of course, every silver lining has a dark cloud behind it. The downside is that the state board approved initial funding for only four new courtrooms, which isn’t much of a help.

Antonovich noted that the approved plans call for six additional courtrooms in the future, and he has said he will push to expedite their construction.

Where will the new courthouse go? Site selection is one of the next steps. At Antonovich’s urging, the Board of Supervisors agreed to donate 10 acres next to the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. The city of Santa Clarita is offering up 7 acres near Golden Valley Road.

Stay tuned.

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