SBC supes want to save $1m on courts

Hollister – Faced with a $1 million price tag to bring the local
courthouse up to seismic standards, the board of supervisors may
give the state land on which to build a new $27 million courthouse
instead.
Hollister – Faced with a $1 million price tag to bring the local courthouse up to seismic standards, the board of supervisors may give the state land on which to build a new $27 million courthouse instead.

Under legislation passed in 1997, all California counties are required to turn responsibility of their courthouse buildings over to the state. Before California will take ownership of San Benito County’s 43-year-old courthouse, it wants the county to pay for an estimated $1 million in seismic retrofitting.

But what seems like a necessary sacrifice may not be the county’s best bet, according to Acting County Administrative Officer Susan Lyons. San Benito County is on the state’s top-10 list of counties in need of new court facilities, Lyons told the board of supervisors Tuesday.

So there’s a good possibility that the county would be paying $1 million to bring the old courthouse up to snuff, only to have it replaced a few years later, according to Court Executive Officer Alex Calvo.

“Once the transfer is done, our county is in a good position to get a new courthouse relatively quickly,” he said.

No matter what, according to a staff report, the courthouse will likely remain in Hollister as opposed to another San Benito County city. But where in Hollister is still up for question. Some have suggested using a plot of land out by the jail and juvenile hall, while others say they’re worried taking the courthouse out of downtown could detract shoppers and diners from the already suffering area, Lyons said.

Chairman Reb Monaco Tuesday appointed himself and Supervisor Anthony Botelho to a committee that, along with Lyons and County Counsel Karen Forcum, will discuss options to avoid unnecessary spending with officials from both the state and the local court starting on March 21. Negotiations could include a county offer to give the state a piece of land to build the new estimated $27 million courthouse on in exchange for letting the $1 million in seismic improvements to the old facility slide.

“That’s a possibility and we’re still looking into it,” Board Chairman Reb Monaco said. “It wasn’t an option before because a state agency basically said ‘No we won’t consider that;’ but the last time we had input from them they said ‘Oh yeah, that might be a possibility.’ ”

The idea still needs to be discussed, Calvo said.

“One of the issues that needs to be dealt with is the seismic issue,” he said. “The county has a piece of land that they might be interested in adding into the equation for these negotiations, and that’s something that we’re going to be discussing as time goes on.”

If all goes according to plan, a new courthouse could be ready in late 2010.

Current plans call for construction to take place in two stages, which would ultimately result in six courtrooms and about 67,000 square feet of space.

Leave your comments