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Courthouse project delayed

Judicial Council of California puts proposal on hold "indefinitely"

Posted: October 31, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 31, 2012 2:00 a.m.

The Santa Clarita Valley’s proposed new courthouse — and with it a new Sheriff’s Station under one plan — are on indefinite hold, a state agency has decided.

The decision Friday by the Judicial Council of California came just days after the city of Santa Clarita drafted a letter asking the state to expedite construction of the proposed courthouse.

The judicial council voted to table the proposed $58.131-million courthouse due to ongoing state budget cuts, according to a news release.

The council estimated that, by fiscal year 2013-2014, the state will have borrowed, transferred or redirected nearly $1.5 billion originally designated for courthouse construction into the state’s general fund or court operations fund.

The state simply cannot afford to build the courthouse under current circumstances, officials said.

The existing Santa Clarita Courthouse was built in 1971 and is a shared-use space with Los Angeles County.

As proposed, the new courthouse facility — which the county called for at a Castaic location that would also include a new Sheriff’s Station — would provide access to services, such as processing for civil or small-claims cases, that are not available at the existing location.

The city and the county have both expressed willingness to donate land for the courthouse.

In a letter dated Oct. 22, Santa Clarita City Council members outlined a series of inconveniences to residents and officials in the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station they think result from not having a full-service courthouse in the city.

As it stands, many residents have to travel outside the Santa Clarita Valley to appear in court for non-traffic-related incidents. In many cases, this means a commute of 15 to 25 miles.

That commute also applies to sheriff’s officials, who have to travel out of the city to file felony cases or testify if needed.

Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry called the lack of a courthouse an “equity issue.”

“It just seems appropriate that our residents should have full services and should have the ability to access our court system,” Ferry said.

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said he remains hopeful about the project but disappointed that it was delayed.

“This is a vital project and it should move forward,” Bell said. “But we are at the mercy of the state judicial council as to the timeline of this facility.”

Another wrinkle in the plan is the eventual location for the facility. Bell said Antonovich remains a proponent of constructing the facility in Castaic, while Ferry said the city’s preferred location on Centre Pointe Parkway would be ideal, as it is almost exactly the midpoint of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“But clearly if we’re able to have a court in the valley it would benefit the valley in its entirety,” Ferry said.

Both Ferry and Bell said the project cannot move forward until it is approved by the state, which has to pay for the facility.

“I think, for us, we need to keep making sure we’re heard, making sure we advocate for our community,” Ferry said.

“Some day there will be funding available and we want to make sure we’re not coming to the table late when it does.”




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