$27.5M for new Placer facility

State to fund construction of Tahoe area courthouse
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Tahoe area is getting a new courthouse, with $27.5 million to build it coming from a fund that dips into court user fees. The Judicial Council of California approved funding for a project to replace the 2,000-square-foot Tahoe City courthouse now sharing space in Tahoe City with Placer County Sheriff’s Department, jail and District Attorney’s Office facilities. The judicial council cited court space that is now severely undersized and security deficiencies as two major reasons for the decision to build a new courthouse. Placer County is already served by court facilities at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville, Auburn’s Placer County Courthouse and North Auburn’s Placer County Jail. “Today marks a positive step toward improving access to our court system for the residents and visitors of the North Tahoe Basin,” Placer County Superior Court Judge Alan Pineschi said. Plans call for a larger courtroom designed to current judicial standards, with room for services that could include a self-help center, appropriately sized meeting and waiting areas, and space for family law mediation. Security improvements would include a single point of entry with security screening, separate hallways for the public, staff and in-custody defendants, and better-protected holding areas for in-custody defendants. “Replacing the existing courthouse is long-overdue and has been discussed for more than 20 years,” said Pineschi, who serves as the court’s presiding judge. “The new courthouse will allow for better security and expanded waiting areas inside, and will enhance our ability to provide court services.” Pineschi added the need for residents to travel to Auburn or Roseville will be reduced. “That will save them time and enable them to avoid treacherous winter driving conditions,” Pineschi said. Site selection is the next step in a process that is timed for a 2015 opening. The project – ranked as an immediate need by the judicial council – is funded through a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2008 that provides up to $5 billion in funding for new and renovated court facilities. Funds come from court user fees rather than the state’s general fund. Chief Justice Ronald George said it’s more than a metaphor to say the foundation of the state’s judicial system will be strengthened by constructing the new courthouse. “Courthouses are as vital a part of California’s infrastructure as bridges, highways and water systems,” he said.