The City of Porterville moved a step closer to getting a new courthouse

July 15, 2008 8:07:00 PM PDT
The courthouse is currently located at Morton and D Streets in Porterville. The state has approved the proposed new site - more than ten miles away - where the Porterville Fairgrounds now sit. The new courthouse would provide new services, more judges and may also mean the shutdown of other courtrooms around the county.There will still be some court services offered in Tulare but it's possible one or two judges out of the three that are here will move to Porterville. Officials say the new Porterville courthouse would make things a whole lot more convenient for those living in the south part of Tulare County, who usually have to travel to Visalia to do anything like obtain a marriage license, talk to probation, and more.

Mornings at the Porterville courthouse are always crowded. Some weeks more than four thousand people come through the small building.

Recently, the state Public Works Board decided that a new courthouse in Porterville should be built on the Porterville fairgrounds, which is owned by the city. City officials support the move.

Cameron Hamilton, Mayor of Porterville, says, "The courthouse itself is very exciting because it will enable us to generate more downtown merchants."

The Porterville Fair Board wouldn't comment on the move but city officials say they're interested in moving the fair to West and Scranton streets, at the Sports Complex.

The new Porterville courthouse would serve as a south county judicial facility, offering the same services as the main courthouse in Visalia. That's good news to Felicia Arias, who makes the 45 minutes drive from Porterville to Visalia quite often.

Felicia Arias, says, "We usually have to go out of town to get things done."

Tulare County Judge Paul Vortmann has been working on building the new Porterville Courthouse for 10 years. He says the Porterville Courthouse is 50 years old and cannot handle the growing population of the South County.

Judge Paul Vortmann says, "There is no jury assembly room, security has always been an issue. The ability to hold prisoners -- there are no holding cells, we're using the substation next door. This new facility will be able to handle all those issues and do it safely in the foreseeable future."

Officials will now negotiate with the city of Porterville on a price for the land. They expect to bring at least 20 new jobs to work at the new facility, and, eventually, nine judges.
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