Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Judicial Council Endorses Cutbacks in Court Construction
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Judicial Council yesterday endorsed a cost-cutting direction for court construction statewide, including the reassessment of 13 projects and further construction budget trimming on 24 projects, the Administrative Office of the Courts said in a release.
The council, which met in San Francisco, approved recommendations from the Court Facilities Working Group that “are expected to yield significant, long-term savings throughout the $5 billion program,” the release said.
“Today council’s action sets firm direction for continuing with much-needed court improvements in today’s demanding fiscal climate,” said Fifth District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Brad R. Hill, who chairs the working group, said.
“We need to ensure we are spending every dollar of the public’s money wisely. At the same time, the council has reaffirmed the responsibility and commitment of the judicial branch to provide equal access to justice in safe and secure courthouses. While we cannot today predict the full outcome of this process, what we do know is that measures approved today will result in significant budget reductions. We believe we will achieve far greater savings as we proceed,” Hill said.
Thirteen projects, with a current combined project cost of $1.1 billion, will be reassessed for significant savings options, including downsizing square footage, undertaking renovations instead of new construction, evaluating lease options, and using lower-cost construction methods where feasible. The reassessment timeline will vary for each project.
Another 24 projects, worth $3.2 billion overall, will proceed with mandated construction budget cuts of at least 2 to 10 percent, over and above the 4 percent reduction directed by the council last year, the AOC said. Seven projects have been designated as models for lower-cost construction methods, such as tilt-up construction.
The council also delegated to the AOC the ability to depart from council-approved statewide design standards in order to achieve these new economies, subject to approval of the working group.
“The standards were designed to produce the best possible buildings, with the best long-term value for money, “ Justice Jeffrey Johnson of this district’s Court of Appeal said. Johnson, who chairs the subcommittee that developed the recommendations, said the delegation of authority “gives staff the flexibility needed to encourage innovative thinking and cost-conscious approaches.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company