Los Banos courthouse project moves forward

Preliminary drawings for Los Banos’ new courthouse are scheduled to be voted on this week, putting the project on track for completion in 2016.

Teresa Ruano, spokeswoman for the California Administrative Office of the Courts, said the architectural design of the Los Banos courthouse has been placed on the state Public Works Board’s agenda for Friday.

“It’s on the consent agenda, so we expect it to be approved,” she said.

Ruano said that after the court’s architectural designs are given the go-ahead, the working drawing, which provide specifications from which the structure will be built, will start the approval process, slated to last through 2014. Barring setbacks, construction is scheduled to begin May 2015.

The Los Banos courthouse is one of few such projects around the state given approval to move forward.

“There were a whole bunch of decisions made on courthouses, many of them are finishing a phase and then being put on hold. Los Banos is one of the few allowed to continue,” Ruano said.

In 2012, many courthouse projects were cut by state lawmakers, shifting about $600 million in Long Beach court expenses to the state’s courthouse construction budget. The projects that remained included new courthouses in Los Banos, Sonora and Modesto.

In Los Banos, the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center occupies about 5,370 square feet of its 15,000-square-foot building. The one-courtroom structure is owned by Merced County and is shared by the Sheriff’s Department, probation department, the county clerk and the public defender. The district attorney’s office is in a portable building at the rear of the permanent structure. A feasibility report identified numerous deficiencies at the building, which was built in 1980.

In 2009, the state authorized $32.6 million (then reduced to $32.2 million) to be spent on construction of a new court building with two courtrooms and room to expand to four.

Ruano said a bond sale is scheduled to take place in the spring of 2015 to finance construction.

The new courthouse will be built near the intersection of G Street and Mercey Springs Road.