City of Morgan Hill questions courthouse size

MORGAN HILL
– The City Council questioned the county’s direction for the
courthouse planned for a site between Butterfield and the railroad
tracks, north of Dunne Avenue.
MORGAN HILL – The City Council questioned the county’s direction for the courthouse planned for a site between Butterfield and the railroad tracks, north of Dunne Avenue. It sent its concerns on to the county to be included in the draft environmental impact report, which is required for any project of this magnitude.

The original agreement was for a $22.5 million 61,000 square-foot facility on six acres but by the final (preliminary) programming stage, it had expanded to 79,000 square-feet with a $39.4 million budget.

Further changing the face of the project is the fact that, as reported by City Manager Ed Tewes, the site is actually 7.8 acres rather than 8 full acres.

The city’s conception of the project was that it would include, not just the courthouse facility, but also the new police station and a third fire station.

There is no mention of fire or police departments on the site in the county report, Councilman Greg Sellers said.

The preliminary (courthouse facility) plans would take more than six acres, leaving enough room for a fire station but not a police department, said Chief of Police Jerry Galvin. The city has been planning for some time to provide a larger police facility for the department. The idea of a public safety complex – police, fire and court – was an attractive one.

Councilman Larry Carr said he was concerned that the scope of the project has increased. “I think they’ve changed the project. We must make sure it doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.

“We don’t really know what the project is,” said Councilman Steve Tate. “We agreed to provide six acres; the project is creeping.”

Sellers questioned the parking facility that the county proposes next to the railroad tracks. “They forget that it would be seen from downtown,” he said. He called the move aesthetically displeasing.

Carr said he wanted to know if the parking structure would be open to the public after hours.

“I don’t want to see a chain link fence with barbed wire around this on weekends when we could use it.”

The courthouse site is just across the tracks from the new community and cultural center and, while the center has adequate parking, there are times when downtown parking is at a premium.

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