Following a tense public meeting in Independence, Superior Court Judges faced a less agitated crowd in Bishop as discussions for a new $33 million courthouse continue.
The core of the issue boils down to history and the economic life of the small town of Independence versus the utilitarian convenience of serving the majority of the population that lives in the Bishop area.
At the meeting Wednesday night, there did not appear to be an overwhelming groundswell of support to build the new court in Bishop. About thirty members of the public attended the meeting. As opposed to the meeting the night before in Independence, when close to 100 people showed up to hear the judges, there was no heated debate in Bishop.
When the meeting broke up into small groups to talk personally with the judges and court staff, citizens asked polite questions and listened to the answers. One Bishop resident supported the courthouse in the county seat of Independence. Another felt that the drive to Independence wasnt excessively inconvenient. Others supported the Bishop location. One resident that we spoke to called the potential decision to build a court facility in Bishop a no brainer.
Judge Brian Lamb set to work to layout the need. He explained that both the historic courthouse in Independence and the court facility in Bishop are inadequate, with poor storage, substandard workplaces, and difficult security. Lamb explained that no matter what decision is made, a second courtroom in Bishop needs to be built.
If the courthouse was built in Independence, it could be located next to the jail, but the court would turn the historic courthouse over to Inyo County. No sites in the Bishop area were singled out by the judges at meeting Wednesday.
Both Judge Lamb and Judge Dean Stout were clear that while the Administrative Office of the Courts has the final say in the matter, they had not yet made a decision on where the court facility will be built. No matter what we do, Judge Stout said at one point, people will be disappointed.