New Courthouse Construction

October 9, 2008 9:13:18 PM PDT
Despite California's budget problems, one major multimillion dollar construction project is underway. It will significantly expand Fresno County's Court system. Crews are in the middle of a major transformation of the old Sisk Federal Courthouse.The feds moved down the street three years ago and transferred their former building to the state. In turn, workers are renovating the five story building into16 new county courtrooms at a cost of $53-million, a price tag construction managers consider a bargain. Tim Wilson is the court facilities director. Wilson said, "We could not build a new building for 53 million dollars. It also provides for reuse of an existing structure and the land it sits on."

State officials fully funded the project years ago, so it avoided falling victim to California's budget crisis. Right now, courtrooms are scattered all across Downtown Fresno. The hope is to be finished by fall 2010 and to consolidate civil and family cases at the old federal building. Then attention will focus on what's been the seat of county justice since the 60s.

Judge Hillary Chittick is the Presiding Judge. She said, "The invitation to the grand opening said it will last well into the 80s." Chittick said the main courthouse needs millions of dollars worth of renovations. It's out of date with obvious problems for the public when they arrive for jury duty. Chittick said, "There's no bathroom in the jury assembly room, so we bring 200 people here everyday for jury service and they don't have anywhere to go to the bathroom." But state funds are needed to make those changes. With California operating in the red, years could pass before the main halls of justice see any improvements.

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