Plans for New County Courthouse Threatened

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STANISLAUS COUNTY -- Overcrowded and inadequate, the California Judicial Council has said the Stanislaus County Courthouse is deficient.

Plans for a newer, safer, improved courthouse which would take shape near G and 9th Streets in downtown Modesto are uncertain.

"Everybody wants to work in a safe building and it’s unfair for workers who have to work in a building that’s not safe,” Peter Allen, the spokesman with the council told FOX40 over the phone.

The California Judicial Council announced recently there is no funding available for the $267 million project. Plans for courthouses in 23 other counties are also in limbo, "As well as dropping revenue, declining revenue, the funds for the court construction program is unsustainable,” Allen said.

Why the shortfall? The state said for one, money used to pay for these kinds of projects, derived from court fees, have been reduced.

"Revenues are continuing to drop, shrink, with both amnesty and other criminal justice reform measures. Which were necessary and good,” Allen explained.

Secondly, during the state’s budget crisis seven years ago, legislators voted to move $1.4 billion from the “immediate and critical needs account” which funds these construction costs, to the general fund.

Central Valley lawmakers, including Senator Cathleen Galgiani and Assembly member Kristin Olsen are concerned. Both issues these statements to FOX40:

“Like the Judicial Council, I agree that funding access to justice for the growing population that packs our courtrooms is essential and should be a higher budget priority. The New Modesto Courthouse Project has been planned for years, and it is critical that the State invest the money that had already been allocated. I encourage the Council and the Department of Finance to find the funding that will get Modesto’s courthouse built, especially since that was assumed in the State Budget that was passed just a few short weeks ago.” - Kristin Olsen

"I am very concerned by the recent release from the Court Facilities Advisory Committee indicating that the Courthouse construction fund may be facing a shortfall. Had this concern come to the Legislature at any point up through the May to June state budget process, I know I would have been joined by many other legislators in insisting that the matter be fully examined and addressed as I am sure it will in the next budget. At this point none of the 23 projects have been delayed including the Modesto Courthouse. Adequate, safe modern court facilities are absolutely essential for our Justice system and necessary funding must be assured. I will examine the additional information from the Judicial Council that comes out of the August 4th meeting of the Advisory Committee.” - Senator Cathleen Galgiani

With the budget on shaky ground, the state said they’re unsure what the solution may be.

"It’s unknown right now. Right now there’s not enough money to pay for it,” Allen said.

Concerned communities will have to wait until August 11 to learn what happens next.

The public meeting in San Francisco to discuss court construction funding was supposed to take place on August 4th. However, it was postponed due to scheduling conflicts.