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County waiting for courthouse approval

By Victoria Sanchez, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:06:21 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 29 2013 07:35:14 PM CST
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

The California facilities working group met on Monday to decide if the Figueroa Courthouse project will move forward.

If the county is given the green light each step of the way, the new building could be constructed in four to five years. However, the state approvals are the key to making it happen.

The county is now waiting to see if it can proceed to just the Planning and Pre-Design phase.

The Figueroa Criminal Courthouse upgrade has been in the works since 2001, but with budget cuts, the progress in the early stages is slow.

"This is another year where over the last five years, actually there's been $1.7 billion that have been diverted from the construction fund into the state's general fund to help offset state budget cuts," explained Court Executive Officer Gary Blair.

The construction fund that comes from penalty assessments being collected since 2008 will pay for the proposed $51 million building.

"The users of the system are the ones that are actually funding it as opposed to the general tax payers. It's not a general fund obligation," said Blair.

Blair and Judge Brian Hill presented a scaled-back version of the three-story, eight-courtroom building to the project subcommittee that recommended the plan move to the next phase. Now it is in the hands of the court facilities working group.

If the plan gets to the construction phase, the new building will be built behind the current courthouse, then the Figueroa building will be torn down.

"And it's very deficient in terms of seismically, life safety, fire, it's not ADA-compliant, has all kinds of problems. It would be very costly to renovate it," said Blair.

He hopes the Department of Finance will budget the courthouse money in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. It could take 18 to 24 months to build.

"You're looking at a four-to five-year horizon on this," said Blair.

The county could hear from the state as early as Tuesday to see if the facilities working group approved the recommendations to go forward with the project.

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