Some people complain about the state budgeting nearly $40 million on a new courthouse when the state faces such difficult economic times, but it is a state building paid for with state money. No local funds were expended, and so far the cost is about $35 million.
The new building replaces the Historic Courthouse, Court Annex and the Access to Justice Self-Help Center.
At a groundbreaking ceremony held in July 2010, F. Donald Sokol, the county’s presiding superior court judge, said this is only the fourth courthouse to be completed under the Trial Courts Facilities Act of 2002 after Lassen’s Historic Courthouse was named the sixth busiest in the state.
Sokol said while the act authorized the construction of 15 courthouses, only facilities in Merced, Fresno and Portola had been completed.
Lassen County District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman shared the history behind the courthouses in Lassen County at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The county’s first courthouse was built on Courthouse Square in approximately 1867 and served the needs of the community for about 50 years.
The current Historic Courthouse was built in approximately 1917 and has served the community for approximately 100 years. Chapman said he is confident to say the new courthouse should last a minimum of 200 years.
The old courthouse building on South Lassen Street will be preserved,protected and maintained for generations to come, Chapman said, and its courtroom will be available for use if needed and for ceremonial functions.
Interestingly, the firm that designed the new courthouse has ties to the designers of the Historic Courthouse, and some design elements such as the huge spans of glass, the stairways up both sides of the building and little design embellishments throughout are similar to those in the old courthouse.
From the moment one walks through the front doors into the new security station, the high ceilings and glass walls and doors provide a feeling of openness and spaciousness.
While the Historic Courthouse and adjoining buildings provide about 12,000 square feet, the new facility stretches to 42,000 square feet under one roof.
The public contact area where the clerks work and provide information to the public and attorneys who interact with the courthouse staff also seems spacious and comfortable.
Of course, there are elevators to the upstairs, making the building up to date with those types of restrictions no one thought about 100 years ago.
The new building features three courtrooms and a hearing room with acoustical and sound proofing features that make it easy to hear the proceedings without the distractions of outside noise.
The Historic Courthouse will close at noon Friday, May 4, and the new Lassen Hall of Justice will open at 1 p.m. Friday, May 7.
Drop boxes will be available to accept court documents during the hours the buildings are closed.
If you have a few extra minutes next week, stop by and see the new facility. I’ll bet you’ll be impressed.
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