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New SCV courthouse could be on hold indefinitely

Recommended delay part of state cost-cutting

Posted: September 10, 2012 5:09 p.m.
Updated: September 10, 2012 5:09 p.m.

The county’s plans for a new Santa Clarita Valley courthouse and sheriff’s station could be on hold indefinitely after a state agency voted to put seven new California courthouse projects on hold, including the one planned for the valley.

The vote in San Francisco on Friday wrapped up more than 20 hours of public hearings on the state’s court construction program. The hearings were the result of the committee’s quest to save nearly $400 million in construction costs, according to a report by Courthouse News Service.

The matter will next go before the state judicial council, likely sometime in the coming month.

“The (Administrative Office of the Courts) is making recommendations to the judicial council about which courthouses to move forward. It’s very early in the process,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “Any reports that this is over are premature.”

Construction on the proposed new Santa Clarita Valley courthouse was expected to start in January 2014 and finish in August 2015.

Antonovich’s courthouse plans call for the county to move the courthouse and SCV Sheriff’s Station to Castaic Junction from its current city-center location at Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway.

The plans call for the state to buy from Los Angeles County a six-acre parcel — at a cost of roughly $3 million — at the southwest corner of the Highway 126 and Interstate 5 junction.

The county is in talks with Newhall Land Development Inc. to purchase the land and another parcel next to it where a new SCV sheriff’s station would be built. Funds from the sale of the existing Sheriff’s Station and courthouse would be used to purchase the property for the facilities.

Santa Clarita city officials and sheriff’s Capt. Paul Becker have objected to the plan, noting it would put the sheriff’s station outside city limits and farther away from most existing populated areas.

“This is a vital project that will serve the entire SCV and the region,” Bell said. “It is important that it moves forward. We’re optimistic.”

From Santa Clarita officials’ perspective, “We’re kind of waiting and watching to see what happens,” city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said Monday.

The approved projects must still be vetted by Justice Jeffrey Johnson’s cost-reduction committee, a sub-group of the court facilities working group.

Committee Chairman Justice Brad Hill said Johnson’s group might find enough money to build the Santa Clarita courthouse with additional cuts from other projects, CNS reported.

“In six months we may have that money,” he said. “That’s why Justice Johnson’s committee needs to go through all of these.”

Los Angeles Court Executive Officer John Clarke said he could not put one project ahead of another in importance or move the caseload for Santa Clarita to other nearby courts, CNS reported.

“I cannot, as suggested yesterday, lose Santa Clarita and move the work load to other locations that are said to be close,” he said Friday. “It’s not feasible given the caseload. There are some 85,000 cases there. We need (it) desperately.”




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