Tuesday meeting to discuss courthouse locationsDan McDonald
Plumas County is almost certain to have a new courthouse in Quincy by 2015.
“ Almost 100 years ago, this building defined the community at that time. I think this is an opportunity to develop a building that defines how you see yourselves now and for the next 90 years”
Ross Drulis Cusenbery Architecture
Where in Quincy it will be located and what it will look like are still up for discussion.
That discussion began Tuesday night, April 26, during a public feedback session in the Superior Court of Plumas County, at the Quincy courthouse.
About 80 residents heard a presentation from the Administrative Office of the Courts and the architectural team that has been picked to design the new courthouse.
“We want your input. We are here today to listen to you,” AOC’s Manager of Design and Construction Services Rob Uvalle told the audience, in what is likely to be the first of many community feedback meetings.
Where the courthouse will be located dominated much of the two-hour session.
Dame Shirley Plaza, which is county-owned property next to the existing courthouse, is the most likely site.
The Plumas County Board of Supervisors planned to discuss the potential sale of the Dame Shirley property during its closed session May 3.
However, Uvalle emphasized that no site has been selected. He said the AOC is obligated to submit two sites to the state.
A second site, on privately held property at 199 Crescent St., attracted little attention during the meeting. That site may have wildlife and wetland issues.
Uvalle said other sites would be considered before two are submitted.
Almost everyone agreed the current courthouse, which was completed in 1921, is a significant Quincy landmark.
The architects said they want the new courthouse to have that same stature.
“Almost 100 years ago, this building defined the community at that time,” said architect Mallory Cusenbery of the firm Ross Drulis Cusenbery Architecture. “I think this is an opportunity to develop a building that defines how you see yourselves now and for the next 90 years.”
The architects emphasized they plan to design a state-of-the-art building that looks the way the community wants it to look.
The 38,283-square-foot building would be home to three courtrooms and would cost an estimated $51.7 million.
It would open for business by 2015 according to the timeline presented by Uvalle.
After the public feedback is processed and a site is selected, it would take the architects about a year to design the structure.
The construction would take about 15 months.
Uvalle said every effort would be made to hire local contractors to do the work.
He added the AOC did a comprehensive analysis of the state’s courthouses and Quincy’s was identified as one that needed to be replaced.
He said the project won’t cost county taxpayers a dime.
The courthouse will be funded from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by Senate Bill 1407, which passed in 2008.
The bill approved the issuance of up to $5 billion in lease revenue bonds to fund this project and 40 others throughout the state, to be repaid by court fees, penalties and assessments.
“If your (traffic) ticket costs a little more, this is why,” Uvalle said.
Supervisor Lori Simpson, who was in the audience, noted the current courthouse would still be used for county offices.
She said only 16 people would be moving to the new courthouse.
One idea that drew vocal audience approval was turning Court Street into a “green” area if the new courthouse is located at the Dame Shirley site.
Downtown Quincy merchants in attendance said they would prefer to see the new courthouse remain downtown, within walking distance of their shops.
They said moving the courthouse away from the central business district would add more economic stress and empty storefronts to the already struggling area.
Additional parking (135 spaces) would need to be available. The architects suggested designing a number of small parking areas instead of one giant lot.
Although most Quincy residents are fond of the current courthouse, it no longer functions well as the main courthouse for the Superior Court, according to the AOC.
The court’s space in the building is overcrowded and it doesn’t meet modern operational and security requirements.
The building can’t be renovated or expanded. The court occupies about 7,000 square feet in the building.
A state study that applied current design standards indicated a need for nearly four times that amount of space.
The courthouse presents a public-safety risk because it doesn’t have holding cells and secure, separate hallways for the movement of in-custody defendants.
There are no attorney-client meeting rooms, so attorneys confer with clients, victims and witnesses in public waiting areas.
The building lacks smoke detectors and sprinklers and is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Architect Michael Ross, who could be seen taking notes about the public’s ideas and concerns during the entire meeting, said the design of the future building is a work in progress.
“We are going to come back,” he said. “There will be more dialogue. We are going to do this right.