Education

Elevator in aging Sacramento courthouse traps students

Officials long have pointed to vexing issues with the Sacramento Superior Courthouse, seen by court leaders as unsafe and obsolete.
Officials long have pointed to vexing issues with the Sacramento Superior Courthouse, seen by court leaders as unsafe and obsolete. aseng@sacbee.com

A faulty brake left nearly 20 students and their tour guide stuck aboard their elevator car for about 20 minutes at downtown Sacramento’s aging county courthouse Friday morning before maintenance workers freed the group. No one was hurt in the incident.

The group of 18 youths and a court employee were about to begin a tour of the Sacramento County Courthouse about 9 a.m., court officials said, when the descending elevator car stopped several inches below the first floor. The car automatically shut down with the group inside. Crews were able to restart the car and free the tour group about 9:20 a.m.

The incident came less than a day after city firefighters were called to the 50-year-old courthouse at 720 Ninth St. on Thursday afternoon for a sparking, smoking electrical panel in the building’s basement. A battery backup unit near offices for court interpreters was the source of the smoke and sparks, court officials said Thursday.

That incident and Friday’s elevator shutdown did not interrupt court proceedings. But coupled with a major power outage Dec. 23 that officials said left much of the courthouse dark after a power transfer switch failed, they point to vexing issues with a building long seen by court leaders as unsafe and obsolete.

“It’s an old building. A project has been approved to build a new courthouse,” said Debbie Moynier, the courthouse’s incoming director of facilities.

The Judicial Council of California approved plans in February 2016 for a new 538,000-square-foot, 53-courtroom county courthouse – a $493 million project planned at H Street between Fifth and Sixth streets near the railyards.

Preliminary project drawings are now in the works, though state judicial officials last summer voted to put new courthouse construction projects on hold, citing funding shortfalls.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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