Construction on new Sonoma Co. courthouse could start in 2014

The State Public Works Board in Sacramento today approved acquisition of three Santa Rosa properties needed to build a $178.7 million new Sonoma County criminal courthouse.

It's one of an estimated $380 million in projects for two new courthouses and one major renovation in North Bay counties in the next few years, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which manages courthouse projects.

The new Santa Rosa courthouse will be located on nearly seven acres in the Sonoma County Administration Center campus just east of the Hall of Justice -- the current main courthouse -- on a cleared site where the previous jail was located. The land includes parking adjacent to the new courthouse and in a current parking lot on Russell Avenue near the project site.

The county of Sonoma will sell the land to the Administrative Office of the Courts for $5.2 million, which is lower than its appraised value. The sale is set to close in mid-June. Richard Meier & Partners will finish architectural drawings in time for contractor bidding to potentially open in early 2014, construction starting a few months later and completion two years later.

Presiding Sonoma County judge Rene Chouteau attended the Sacramento meeting in Sacramento to answer any questions and show judicial leadership commitment and support for this project as a top priority for the court.

"Jurors are entitled to convenient and comfortable accommodations while performing their constitutional duty in the administration of criminal justice," he said in a statement.

The new courthouse project was ranked as an “immediate need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is funded by state Senate Bill 1407, enacted in 2008 to provide up to $5 billion in funding for new and renovated courthouses using court fees, penalties and assessments rather than taxpayer revenues from the state’s General Fund.

Court Executive OfficerJose Octavio Guillen called the vote for property purchases today a "huge milestone"

"The unique and complex nature of this site acquisition required a strong partnership to make this possible," he said. "Sonoma County residents will not only benefit from having a new, secure, and efficient criminal courthouse, but also from the hundreds of jobs created during the construction process that will help fuel our local economy.”

The 173,500-square-foot new courthouse will have 15 courtrooms, offices for court administration and clerk, security operations and holding, a jury assembly room and building support space. For project details, visit www.courts.ca.gov/facilities-sonoma.htm.


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