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November 21. 2019

Greenfield pledges $10M for South County courthouse

SOUTH COUNTY — Greenfield City Council has pledged up to $10 million of support for a new courthouse if the Monterey County Superior Court continues its development of the South County Regional Courthouse Project located in Greenfield.

During a special meeting May 2, the council — sans Mayor Pro Tem Yanely Martinez, who was absent — unanimously adopted a resolution to provide the multi-million-dollar funding in good faith to “further its commitment to support and promote the development and financing” of the Greenfield courthouse.

“The purpose of the proposed resolution is to demonstrate the City’s further commitment, monetarily and otherwise, to the new courthouse project and to collaborate with the Court in furtherance of the project’s development and financing,” said City Manager Paul Wood in his report to the council.

According to Wood, the $10 million commitment would come from the anticipated increase in general fund revenue through sales, property and transient occupancy taxes related to ongoing developments in the city, such as the Walnut Avenue Specific Plan and the Yanks Air Museum, as well as the cannabis industry.

“We would need to fund this project as we would any other project, and that takes time. It’s going to take a number of years probably to get this thing totally done,” Wood said. “… We have developments in the Walnut Avenue Specific Plan and Yanks Air Museum that will be producing sales tax, property taxes, transient occupancy taxes. So we’ve got more and more, as time goes on here, revenues coming in.”

Last week’s resolution comes after all four South County mayors wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom in April asking him to intervene in the decision about where to build the next courthouse for Monterey County.

The mayors are wanting the county to honor its almost decade-long promise of building a new courthouse in Greenfield for South County residents, rather than on the Monterey Peninsula in Seaside, where a new courthouse was recently proposed.

In 2010, the City of Greenfield was awarded the new courthouse location before budget constraints stopped the development, and following the closure of the Superior Court facility in King City in 2013, residents have been forced to travel to either Salinas, Monterey or Marina for court services.

Last year the City of Greenfield donated 4 acres of land adjacent from the Greenfield Civic Center to the project to further show its commitment.

“The new Greenfield courthouse project remains in a state of flux and is now potentially at risk due to other courthouse projects receiving ‘preference,’ despite the dire need to expand judicial capacity in South Monterey County, the critical and load processing and overcrowding existing at the Monterey and Salinas courthouse locations, and the prior commitment by the State of California to bring equal access to justice and legal services to Greenfield and all South Monterey County residents alike,” the City’s resolution states.

The new courthouse would serve not only the cities of Greenfield, King City, Soledad and Gonzales, but also the unincorporated areas of Southern Monterey County, including Bradley, Lockwood, San Ardo and San Lucas — a point that was stressed during last Thursday’s council meeting.

“We need a courthouse here, and it’s for all of South County, not just Greenfield,” said Greenfield Mayor Lance Walker. “Greenfield is going to benefit, but all the residents from all the cities are going to benefit too.”

Councilmembers Andrew Tipton, Angela Untalon and Robert White echoed the mayor’s sentiment.

“There’s no reason for South County not to have access to court services. We need to do whatever we can to make this thing happen,” White said.

Untalon added, “We’re doing everything we can on behalf of the City and South County to show the Superior Court that we’re serious about this and we’ll fight for this by doing this ‘soft promise.’ … As a small city, it is a lot of money, but … this is an investment too. I fully support this decision.”

“We definitely need to make sure we bring the courthouse into South County,” Tipton said. “Our constituents deserve it.”

Assemblymember Robert Rivas and Monterey County Supervisors Chris Lopez and Luis Alejo have also expressed their support for the Greenfield courthouse.

Lopez, who attended last week’s meeting, said, “We’re going to continue this fight … and we’re going to continue to use every piece we have to leverage to make sure we put our best foot forward as a community, and know that you’re not just fighting for Greenfield, you’re fighting for all of Southern Monterey County and our entire region to make sure that our families have access to justice that they deserve.”

King City Mayor Mike LeBarre also spoke before the council, saying that he finds it “unconscionable that there are people who think it’s OK for South County to be the ones who have to travel farther, to have to pay more money to get to the courtrooms they need.”

“What Greenfield is asking, and I support and King City supports, is the commitment fulfilled. We’re not asking for new services, we’re asking for our services to be replaced that have been taken away,” LeBarre added. “We have to do everything we can to show them South County sounds together and we deserve the services.”

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