Inyo supes offer land for courthouse in Independence

The following is a press release from Inyo County CAO Kevin Carunchio:

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors have reiterated their long-standing support for the construction of a new courthouse in Independence by offering the state a free a parcel of land for the new courthouse, and officially requesting that the state court system authorize spending $2.3 million in state court funds to build the new, modular courthouse, which would be located adjacent to the county jail in Independence.

The Supervisors have approved and sent a letter to the state Administrative Director of the Courts detailing the county’s offer of a parcel of land for the new facility, and requesting the state grant final approval of the Independence Courthouse Project. The new courthouse would be approximately 10,000 square feet, be handicapped accessible, have a courtroom and a hearing room, and, because of its proximity to the county jail and juvenile facility, would reduce the costs currently incurred to move defendants from the jail to the courts, the letter notes. The new Independence Courthouse would allow the state Superior Courts to continue to hold all criminal proceedings in Independence as promised by Presiding Judge Brian Lamb and the Administrative Office of the Courts as part of its decision to build a new courthouse in Bishop. A final decision by the state is expected on Sept. 4.

“There has been a long history of Inyo County supporting keeping court facilities in Independence,” said Susan Cash, chairperson of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, on Tuesday, Aug. 16. It was pointed out that the county originally submitted a plan the state for a new Independence Courthouse adjacent to the county jail in Independence in 2009.

“This board and previous boards have made a long-term commitment … to support adequate, worthy and appropriate court facilities in the county seat of Independence,” said First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius. She pointed out that over the past several decades the county invested millions of dollars in a new jail and juvenile facility located in Independence, and has also spent county money to draft plans to build a new justice center in Independence that would have housed the courts. Those actions make it clear the county has “always intended” to have a fully functioning Superior Court facility in Independence, she said.

“For the convenience of the residents of the South County, it’s imperative to have a courthouse in Independence,” said Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney. Court facilities in Independence are also critical to “keep costs down,” he added. In addition to utilizing the new Independence Courthouse, he also stated the current courtroom in the historic county courthouse should also remain in use so the county is never faced with having to transport prisoners to a court in Bishop, which would “devastate the county budget.”

Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes dissented, and said he would rather see the state invest in remodeling the current courtroom and offices in the historic courthouse in Independence. Other board members, however, stated that representatives from the courts, locally and on the state level, had told them personally that the courts have no interest in trying to remodel the historic court facilities instead of building a $30 million court complex in Bishop. After the state court system assumed ownership and control of court facilities, buildings and real estate several years ago, the county has had limited ability to influence even how those facilities are operated. 

Although “the county isn’t in the court business, and hasn’t been for years,” and the Administrative Office of the Courts will make all the final decisions, Inyo County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said the offer of the parcel of land and the letter of support for the new Independence Courthouse would once again demonstrate to the state courts that “the Inyo County Board of Supervisors is committed to having adequate court facilities in Independence.” Since the county and its citizens have been unable to change the AOC’s decision to build a new court facility in Bishop, building a new Independence Courthouse could be considered a case of “making lemonade out of lemons,” he noted.

The $2.3 million Independence Courthouse would be funded with $1.2 million in court fees that the local Superior Court has collected and retained in a Construction Fund over the years, and a commitment of $1.3 million from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

“Although no county in the state can determine where a new courthouse is built,” Carunchio said the Board’s support of the Independence Courthouse project and the offer of a free parcel of land would send a positive message that the county is more than willing to work with the state to ensure the Independence Courthouse project will be moved out of the planning stage and into the construction phase, by the Administrative Office of the Courts’ September 4th deadline.


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13 Responses to Inyo supes offer land for courthouse in Independence

  1. upthecreek August 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    STOP wasting money you the taxpayers will never have

    • Charles James August 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      The money to build the courthouse facilities in Independence is available in an existing fund and from courthouse fees.

  2. Eamon August 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    So this new movement by a few well heeled residents of Indy and Lone Pine who want to make expenditures by the County in excess of a certain amount of dollars be up for a vote should also consider including the decision by the County to donate valuable land in the County away to the State of California.

    • Charles James August 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm #


      It’s tiresome to have to reiterate this again, but these are not “well-heeled” residents of Independence and Lone Pine. They are in fact fairly well-known, liked, and highly- regarded throughout the County. But even if they were “well-heeled”- so what?! They are not entitled to the same rights as others, including yourself? You do not seem to have any problem in pressing your right to hold or express an opinion.

      And while you reference the decision by the County to donate land, it is obvious that you have little idea of what the property is worth or for what purposes it could otherwise be put to use.

      Get your facts straight first, and then try to make your points. As our President noted and many have repeated because it is true: You are entitled to your opinion, but not to your own facts.

      The property is public-owned land. It was offered to the State to build a state-owned, state-built, state-operated courthouse facilities. State property is also “public-owned”. The property in question, which is adjacent to the jail, is not taxed now, nor would it be if transferred to the state. There would be no loss of future tax revenues to the County that it does not now collect anyway. And there is no large capital outlay that will incur public indebtedness to residents of the County.

  3. JaneE August 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    What is secure transportation? Can’t you just put a prisoner in the back of a patrol car and drive to Bishop? It isn’t like we need a 50 passenger sheriffs van ala SB or LA county. What about the telephone or AV arraignments we heard about? Are the Deputies always on overtime, or are they doing transport as a part of their normal shift? There are a lot of things that need to be spelled out and quantified. I don’t have access to the transport protocols used today. Maybe someone who does can put a price tag on them. Then we can actually compare the costs.

    I just think it is fishy that free land suddenly became available after the decision to site elsewhere was made, and I have a hard time believing that transporting some (not all) prisoners during their trials could “devastate” a budget when part of the cost is offset by reduced mileage costs.

    • Bob Loblaw August 23, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      When you really look at it, it’s quite costly to transport one or two prisoners. You now have to pay a deputy his hourly wage, and benefits to drive that prisoner an hour, sit through his trial, and drive him back. Never mind fuel costs, and wear and tear on the vehicle. As far as “Free Land” goes, I imagine it was a requirement to get the new courthouse. The state isn’t going to flip the tab for that, especially in it’s current financial position.

      • JaneE August 24, 2011 at 9:18 am #

        How many prisoners are actually transported? How many are free on bail? You are only talking about criminal cases, right? The deputy has to sit all day to guard him? Why can’t the bailiff do that? The free land wasn’t free until after the Bishop court was approved. Why wasn’t the land offered when it might have made a difference in the decision? It seems like this is just grandstand play by the supervisors. Especially if the land wasn’t offered up free of charge when they thought that they could get paid for it. No one has said that the Bishop land will be no-cost to the state, have they? The poor, poor Inyo government would do anything to get their Independance court house, except make the offer when the location was still being debated and it might have actually swung the decision. They didn’t get the decision they wanted, so now it it all “Take our land for nothing, Please”. The time to make concessions is when the negotiations are taking place, not after the decisions have been made. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda doesn’t cut it.

        • Bob Loblaw August 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

          Sadly, it isn’t just the trial itself. It’s the arraignment, all the appearances, the whole shebang. In the interim, that deputy can’t just jaunt back to Indy to hang out for a few before he turns around. And unless I miss my guess, they likely have a deputy assigned to that so they don’t have to pull one off a beat. The money’s gonna add up. As far as the courthouse land goes, could go either way, but I suspect the county will cough up the parcel just south of Jack in the Box for the Bishop courthouse.

  4. J.H. August 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    What’s wrong with the court they already have? What is it a half mile away?

    • Charles James August 21, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      J.H.: You ask the wrong questions. The real question is- “What exactly do YOU know about this issue?”

      There have been many months of debates, arguments, and discussions on this very issue. It has been covered in the local newspaper, debated at public meetings, written up in studies, documents and reports, and extensively reported by Sierra Wave News. All the things that are wrong with the old courthouse in Independence from security to access issues have been exhaustively brought out.

      There are so many problems associated with remodeling and modernizing the old courthouse building that a determination has been made that it would be foolishly cost-prohibitive to do so.

      The world has changed greatly since the old courthouse was built. We live in a world which is increasingly dependent on technology and infrastructure to support it- including our judicial system. There are significant structural issues with the courthouse as well.

      To their credit, the majority of the Board of Supervisors is for the Independence Courthouse Project to move forward; and to do everything they can to make it happen. While there is no guarantee that it will happen, the County’s offer of free land adjacent to the County Jail and Juvenile Center upon which to build it will hopefully significantly improve its chances.

      The decision to continue trying criminal cases and adjudicating youth offenders from the juvenile center in Independence rather than transporting them to Bishop will save the County money and best address some of the security concerns as well.

      I strongly supported keeping the new $33 million new courthouse in Independence as was originally planned before the issue was hijacked by the AOC in Sacramento, but I was on the losing side of that argument. Even so, I personally feel that we need to move on- and that something is better than nothing. Anything that improves the lives of those living in any part of our county, that makes living here safer, more convenient, more affordable, improve the viability of the community in Independence, and isn’t prohibitively expensive to build or provide (which is to say that we can justify the need and the cost for it), I will strongly support.

      So, what is it about this issue that you don’t seem to understand? If you would perhaps do a little homework, you will find that all this information is readily available at your local library and online.

  5. JeniferCastaneda August 20, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    When the AOC was looking at siting the new courthouse in Independence they hired me to research possible locations. At that time the Supervisors were not willing to “give” the parcel next to the jail but would “sell” it to the AOC. The AOC told me that if they had to purchase the land then they preferred another parcel I had suggested. It’s too bad that the County wasn’t willing to give the AOC the parcel at the time they were focused on Independence. Maybe it would have made a difference then, I don’t know?

  6. JaneE August 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Supervisor Marty Fortney is quoted as saying that having to transport prisoners to a court in Bishop would “devastate the county budget.”

    Does the county pay mileage for jurors? What is the cost of transporting prisoners to Bishop Vs. mileage for 2 dozen jurors going from Bishop to Independence? What about the cost to Bishop residents who have to drive 40 miles each way? Don’t we get a say in the county giving our tax money to fund a lost cause? Why wasn’t free land and construction costs brought up before the decision to site the new court in Bishop?

    How about the county building its new administrative center with modern conveniences like handicapped access and offering to lease space to the courts whenever it is expedient to have a court session in the southern part of the county because of the defendants location, witnesses, etc. And let the Bishop court handle the cases which involve Bishop area residents. Of course, except for the new (free?) building, that sounds a lot like what the AOC already said.

    • Bob Loblaw August 22, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Jurors do not require secure transportation. Only gas money, or a bus pass.


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