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Countywide : Board Delays Decision on Financing of Courts

Over the objections of county presiding judges, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday postponed decisions on funding for two of three new court buildings until budget hearings next month.

Supervisors authorized design work on a new courthouse in Laguna Niguel that is projected to cost $14.5 million to build. But they endorsed a staff proposal to take back $2 million in revenue-sharing funds in the current budget that had been earmarked for design work on a new juvenile court and a criminal court.

The revenue-sharing funds would be added to the general fund to help balance the county’s projected $1.263-billion 1986-87 budget, which falls below the previous year’s level for the first time in county history, according to Murry Cable, assistant county chief administrative officer.

The 1986-87 budget includes $1.5 million for design of a $22.5-million juvenile courthouse, but supervisors indicated that the money would come from a special courthouse construction fund that judges and court administrators had hoped to use for actual construction.

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The budget contains no money for the $100-million criminal court.

In a strongly worded letter of opposition, presiding judges of Orange County Superior and Municipal courts and the district attorney blasted the plan as “a major step backward” and “an unacceptable method of addressing these issues.”

Responding to those concerns, supervisors voted 4 to 0 to create a special task force to study alternate ways to finance construction of a multistory criminal courts building. Supervisor Harriett Wieder was absent Tuesday.

The task force--composed of court administrator Alan Slater, County Clerk Gary Granville, general services agency head Bert Scott and County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish--was ordered to return within 45 days with a report on the problem.

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A study of the county’s need for a separate criminal courthouse--which was accepted by the board Tuesday--indicates there will be a need for 35 new courtrooms by 1995 and another 23 by 2010, requiring a 345,000 square-foot building for the courts and a separate office facility at a total cost of $124 million.


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