Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 23, 2002


Page 1


Mental Health Courthouse to Get $3.5 Million Facelift


By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer


A leaking roof tops the list of numerous repairs to be made at the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Mental Health Courthouse with $2.5 million approved yesterday by the county Board of Supervisors for the project.

The money for the repairs will be taken from the county’s Criminal Justice Facilities Construction Fund and work could begin this fiscal year, according to county Chief Administrative Officer David E. Janssen.

The Superior Court operates the Mental Health Court but the building is owned and operated by the county.

Nicknamed “The Pickle Factory,” for the function the nearly 100-year-old structure once performed, the courthouse at 1150 N. San Fernando Road is actually three buildings joined with one roof, a situation which court officials causes numerous problems.

“It’s not pitched right and it leaks,” Mental Health Court Supervising Judge Fred Fujioka said.

During heavy rains there are leaks in courtrooms, lock-up facilities and in the courthouse lobby, Fujioka said.

The leaks have caused internal damage to the courthouse and damage to the structure’s electrical system, he said.

Employees complain that the building is too hot or too cold because the building’s heating and air conditioning systems are actually three separate systems, Fujioka said.

“They just don’t work very well,” he said.

Addressing just “priority repairs,” including replacing the roof and overhauling the air, heating and electrical systems, will cost $2.5 million, according to Janssen’s office.

The court has become so overcrowded that even repairs to less crucial areas, such as the patio and its benches, have become necessary since the area is used to accommodate overflow from the waiting rooms.

The benches need replacing and the patio floods during rainy weather.

Lighting, plumbing, and restroom facilities also need replacement, according to a county report.

Fujioka said he was surprised how quickly the county acted to correct the problems at the courthouse and credited Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who requested the board to allocate the repair funds, and his staff for obtaining the money so soon.

“We’re just thrilled,” Fujioka said.

There is no money to construct a new courthouse right now, Fujioka said, but the repairs that will be made with the $2.5 million will make a substantial impact.

“I don’t see it as a Band-Aid,” Fujioka said. “I see these as important repairs.”

Plumbing repairs, which Superior Court officials estimated costing between $90,000 and $200,000, and additional parking will not be considered at this time, an Antonovich spokeswoman said.

In December, Antonovich asked if money from the federal bill, S-1865, known as America’s Law Enforcement and Mental Health Project, could be used to make the repairs, but Janssen concluded that those funds may be used only for mental health programs and not for facilities.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company