Funded by: Senate Bill 1732
Initial Funding Year: FY 2007-2008
New Madera County Courthouse
Photo: James Ewing Photography
The existing Madera Courthouse is undersized, in poor condition, and in need of replacement. The county has attempted to mitigate the overcrowding problem by installing several modular buildings at the courthouse site. However, overcrowding still persists and the county is not able to provide the needed space for the court to operate efficiently. Other significant issues are operational, security, health and safety, and accessibility problems.
The 10-courtroom New Madera Courthouse will replace and consolidate the Madera Courthouse and the Family Court Services Division leased facility functions. In June 2009, the state Public Works Board approved an acquisition agreement between the Judicial Council and the City of Madera Redevelopment Agency for the preferred site in downtown Madera, on West 6th Street across from Courthouse Park. Site acquisition was completed in spring 2011, and the project is now under construction.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance
Judicial Council staff complied with CEQA by filing a categorical exemption for this project's preferred site on October 2, 2008.
Construction Manager at Risk
Gilbane Building Co.
What is the current status of the project?
The New Madera County Courthouse was completed in August 2015 and opened for business on September 8, 2015.
Why does Madera County need a new courthouse?
The Superior Court of Madera County operates out of three facilities: the main Madera County Courthouse and the leased Family Court Services Division in downtown Madera, and the Sierra Courthouse, a branch in Bass Lake. The main courthouse is outdated, undersized, and needs to be replaced. Originally built as an elementary school and taken over by the court in the 1970s, the twice-condemned courthouse is also severely overcrowded and in poor physical condition. In an attempt to mitigate the overcrowding, the County installed several modular buildings on the courthouse grounds; however, overcrowding still persists, along with significant security, operational, safety and accessibility issues. Examples:
What is the plan for the new courthouse?
The new, four-story courthouse will replace the current Madera County Courthouse and the Family Court Services Division. The branch in Bass Lake will remain open. The new building holds 10 courtrooms, with additional space for security, public and jury assembly space, administrative space, and other services in approximately 116,000 square feet. A secure sallyport, with separate circulation for the transport of in-custody detainees, will increase public safety. The new courthouse will consolidate court services for Madera County residents under one roof into an adequately sized, modern courthouse.
Was renovation considered before the plan to build a new courthouse was decided on?
The Judicial Council evaluated renovation as an option and found that it would not be feasible. The main courthouse has been condemned twice, is overcrowded and in poor condition, with no room for expansion. The Family Court Services building is a leased facility and cannot be renovated.
Who is the Judicial Council, and why are they managing this project?
The Judicial Council is the policymaking body for the California court system, including the trial courts, known as Superior Courts, based in each county. Among other responsibilities, the council through its Capital Program office is responsible for planning, acquisition, design, renovation, and construction of court facilities. The new courthouse will be owned by the judicial branch.
How has the local community had input regarding the courthouse project?
The Project Advisory Group, with members from the Superior Court and the City, County, Sheriff’s office, and the community at large, was the main source of ongoing community input to the project. In addition, the project team held periodic community meetings to keep the public informed about project progress.
What will happen to the existing courthouse when the new courthouse is completed?
After the court occupies the new building and vacates its current space, the state will terminate the lease on the Family Court Services facility and will work with the Superior Court to decide how to use the vacated space in the main courthouse.
Who is the architect on the project?
Los Angeles based A.C. Martin designed the new Madera County Courthouse. In business for over 100 years, A.C. Martin provides architecture, planning, interior architecture, and general contracting services. The company is experienced in designing municipal buildings.
How are the architects for courthouse construction projects selected?
Judicial Council staff use a competitive selection process, factoring in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as its fee.
What are the key milestones in designing the courthouse?
Where can I see a rendering of the new courthouse?
For a rendering of the new courthouse, please see the GALLERY tab on the project webpage.
Will the new courthouse be energy-efficient and sustainably designed?
This project has been designed to comply with CALGreen standards for energy efficiency, water conservation, resource efficiency, and environmental quality. Sustainability features include drought- tolerant landscaping and water-efficient irrigation and plumbing systems, and LED lighting for energy savings. The building is also designed to qualify for LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the national standard for sustainable design.
What is the location of the new courthouse?
The courthouse occupies approximately 2.24 acres on West 6th Street in downtown Madera, immediately south of the current Madera County Courthouse Museum. The Madera Redevelopment Agency assembled the public and privately owned parcels that make up the site for sale to the state. The City also donated an additional half-acre adjacent to the site for a public parking structure. Part of the state’s payment for the land is an equity exchange for its interest in the main courthouse.
What was the process used to select the site?
Judicial Council staff worked closely with the Superior Court, the City, and the County to determine the preferred and alternate sites. Council staff followed a standard site selection policy and process. The process involved objectively evaluating potential sites and selecting at least two sites that met agreed-upon criteria for the proposed new courthouse in providing access to justice for residents of Madera County, within the confines of the project’s budget and schedule.
Why does the Judicial Council decide where the new court is built? Why isn't this a county decision?
Historically, trial courts functioned largely as county departments, but that changed in 2002, with passage of the Trial Court Facilities Act. This law made the State of California responsible for court facilities statewide, rather than the counties. The law gave the Judicial Council responsibility for facilities owned or occupied by the courts and made it responsible for operations, maintenance, and repairs, as well as site acquisition, planning, design, and construction of capital projects that replace or renovate courthouses. Council staff work closely with each affected Superior Court and local government throughout the site selection process.
Was an environmental review completed for the project?
Judicial Council staff are responsible for environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Staff completed the CEQA process by filing a categorical exemption for this project on October 2, 2008.
Will the new building be energy-efficient?
Yes. The building’s sustainability features are expected to qualify it to receive a LEED Silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council. Energy-efficiency features include advanced conservation methods in heating and cooling and state-of-the-art artificial lighting and plumbing, as well as ample flow of natural light throughout the building.
How is the new courthouse being funded?
The courthouse is being funded without impact to the state’s General Fund. The funds come from statewide increases in court user fees, authorized by the Trial Court Facilities Act of 2002. This bill approved the issuance of lease-revenue bonds to fund this project, to be repaid by court fees, penalties, and assessments. Bonds were sold for this project in the spring of 2012.
How did the state arrive at its initial budget for the project?
Council staff develop each project budget by first determining the building size, site size, and number of parking spaces. Then it provides this information to a professional cost estimating firm that creates a hard construction cost for the building and site work. To this, staff add all project soft costs, which includes all costs associated with evaluating, selecting, and acquiring a site, analysis required to comply with CEQA, the fee for the architecture and engineering team, geotechnical testing, project management and construction management fees, commissioning fees, and the cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment.
How can the state afford a new courthouse at all, given current state finances?
To fund desperately needed renovations and repairs, penalty assessments and parking offense penalties were increased, and civil filing fee surcharges were created. This ensured a revenue stream to finance courthouse construction and renovations, promising these projects would be paid for from within the court system rather than drawing on the state's General Fund or local taxes. Bonds to finance construction were sold in spring 2012. Once the courthouse is completed and occupied, the same revenue stream will repay those bonds over 35 years. This means that funds from other court jurisdictions will support the new Madera Courthouse in years to come.
Who built the new courthouse?
Gilbane Building Company is the construction manager at risk (CMAR). In business since 1873, the company is a family-owned, fourth-generation general contractor and has completed numerous California public construction projects.
How was the CMAR selected?
The competitive selection process factors in qualitative criteria, such as the firm’s experience, as well as the contractor’s fee. The CMAR is retained early in the project for preconstruction services. Following a competitive bid for all subcontracts and the approval to award, the CMAR becomes the general contractor. Selection criteria included an evaluation of the firm’s plan for outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, the process, and the timeline.
What are the Judicial Council's policies with regard to local hiring and purchasing during design and construction? How will members of the public find out about these opportunities?
The Judicial Council requires that the contractor conduct outreach to local subcontractors, ensuring that qualified local firms are fully aware of the bidding opportunity, process, and timeline. All qualified subcontractors, lower-tier subcontractors, and suppliers were considered.
What are the key milestones in building the courthouse?
When will the courthouse be completed and operational?
The project was completed in August and opened for business on September 8, 2015.
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