In a time when court closures, budget cuts, furloughs, and layoffs are the dominant topics of discussion in California’s judicial system, it’s rather surprising that there are some people who are discussing building a new courthouse. A new courthouse? Who’s getting a new courthouse and where is it being built? Well, that would be the new courthouse that’s planned for the downtown area of Stockton in San Joaquin County.
The Central Valley Business Times wrote in a piece today that the Hon. Judge William Murray, presiding judge of the Stockton court, is concerned that Stockton may not get to see a new courthouse because the funds that had been allocated for its construction might be taken away by lawmakers to plug other holes in the state budget. Hmm…a larger government agency taking funds away to build other projects needed or otherwise. Sounds so familiar.
Anyway, the article goes on to state that county and city officials were THRILLED when they realized that Stockton had won the “Extreme Makeover Courthouse Edition” when the AOC announced last month that Stockton was slated to get a new courthouse. But there’s a catch. Isn’t there always? Just because the AOC said they’d build a courthouse doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Even though more than $250 million has been set aside for the purchase of surrounding property and construction of a new downtown courthouse, presiding Judge William Murray said he’s concerned that when it comes time to build the courthouse, the money won’t be there.
The $250 million is not part of the state budget and instead is part of a larger amount that comes from fees and fines assessed by courts throughout California, Mr. Murray said.
The reason for his concern: the California state budget mess and the propensity of California lawmakers to raid other sources of revenue to help fix the budget problem.
What was that? The AOC has allocated $250 million for building this new courthouse?? I’m not begrudging Stockton’s need for a courthouse. Don’t get me wrong. But really? The AOC wants to build that courthouse now? I’m not even going to get into where else I think that $250 million could be better spent right now. God forbid I should look like a tired old drummer beating the same old tune.
The article also goes on to discuss some of the problems they’re having logistically with building the courthouse. For instance, while the AOC may allegedly have the funds for the courthouse, the county doesn’t have the funds for the parking lot.
But the issue was important enough for the Board of Supervisors to vote earlier this year its intentions to build a two-level underground garage with an open plaza above ground where the present-day courthouse now stands.
Just how the county will pay for construction of the garage and above-ground plaza is still unknown, according to county officials.
“We don’t have the money to build it,” said County Administrator Manuel Lopez. “I don’t know how we’re going to build it.”
Although the county does have more than $2 million in capital improvement fees, it’s not enough to cover the estimated $30 million construction price tag.
To paraphrase a line from the film “Field of Dreams.” If you build it, they will come…but then were are they going to park?