The new San Benito County Courthouse last week was dedicated and opened to the public to view for themselves behind the scenes the features of the new state-of-the-art facility. Though the courthouse has been open for business for the past several months, Oct. 10 was the official ceremony to acknowledge those who worked for the past decade to make the new courthouse a reality.
The ceremony was attended by many residents as well as current and former public officials, including Anna Caballero, the secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency in Gov. Jerry Brown's cabinet.
Superior Court Judge Steven Sanders presided over the ceremony, introducing the speakers and praising the collaboration that led to the move of court business from the corner of Fifth and Monterey streets to the fomer site of Fremont School on Fourth Street. He spoke of the importance of the courthouse being a reinvestment in the city, county and state. He said it represented “a renewal of our faith” and the culmination of the efforts of individuals, organizations and government agencies.
The National Anthem was sung by Maribel De Alba, a teacher at the Dual Language Academy in Hollister. Congressman Sam Farr was introduced and said that he counted himself as a lover of San Benito County and that he saw the new courthouse as a symbol of a “San Benito County on the rise," reclaiming its history. \Farr called the new superior court building, “maybe the most beautiful in the entire region, maybe in the state.” He thanked people who voted for the bond issue, the civil servants and civic-minded people who participated in getting it on the agenda, and the law breakers who committed the crimes whose fines helped to finance the construction.
On behalf of Chief Justice of California, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Madera County Superior Court Judge Brian McCabe read a letter noting that the courthouse symbolized a commitment to “access to justice for all Californians,” which requires providing “physical access to safe, secure, functional and adequately staffed courthouses” and to “make it easier ….. to the public to access services remotely." McCabe noted that this was one of 16 courthouse projects that has been completed statewide recently, with 10 more in the process. He said that the construction funds came from specially designated court fees, despite a state budget crisis that caused $1.7 billion from the construction fund to be “swept into (state's) General Fund, borrowed, or re-directed into court operations.” He thanked members of the bench and staff of the Superior Court of San Benito County for their work and reported that more than 200 workers worked on the building.
In his address, State Sen.Anthony Canella spoke of benefits the building has been to downtown Hollister, while Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who helped obtain security funding for the courthouse, told the crowd that, while the building cost $33 million, that did not include paying for the personnel to staff security. He said that after working with the Superior Court and the county Board of Supervisors, nearly a half-million dollars has been added to will soon be available for the local security needs at the courthouse.
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer related his memory of the construction of the former courthouse building and agreed that the placement of the new courthouse downtown was a boon to the revitalization of the downtown area.
Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said he had recently viewed photos of the original courthouse and pointed out the historical ties between the structures and the value of keeping court facilities downtown.
After the presentations, tours of the courthouse were offered.
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