Porterville breaks ground on South County Justice Center

PORTERVILLE, Calif.

With a quick shoveling of dirt, superior court judges, local law enforcement, and South Valley officials marked the start of construction of a brand new courthouse.

The South County Justice Center will feature nine courtrooms that have natural light plus new services.

Judge Glade Roper said, "Before people have had to go to Visalia to do probate, family law, any major civil cases all that's going to happen down here."

The South County Justice Center will replace the current Porterville courthouse which is not only overcrowded but falling apart.

Judge Glade Roper said, "I was in the middle of a jury trial and the roof partially collapsed in the courthouse a few years ago so it's really been outdated."

Plus, Judge Roper says right now, roughly one-thousand people cram into the tiny courthouse each day. Local law enforcement says the new $93 million facility will also be safer.

Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman said, "We have to transport inmates back and forth sometimes thru the jury chambers in front of the judges and in all honesty that is not a safe environment."

The project is expected to be a big boost in Porterville's economy. It's estimated to bring at least 125 permanent jobs and 600 construction jobs.

Porterville city officials are estimating the South County Justice Center will bring in $3 million annually to the city and generate 1500 jobs in the surrounding community.

Porterville City Manager John Lollis said, "The indirect jobs in the service and retail industries those that are using it for services purposes and retail purposes turns over many times."

The new courthouse will sit on the old Porterville fairgrounds, which has since moved across town on West Teapot Dome Avenue.

Thursday's groundbreaking culminates more than a decade's worth of work and some delays by the state.

Officials say they've worked meticulously to make sure the courthouse was designed to work at the highest efficiency. It is expected to open by the end of 2013.

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