Work starts on new Hanford courthouse

Construction has begun on a new four-story courthouse in Hanford to consolidate operations for the Kings County Superior Court.

Court functions are currently spread out at four separate buildings in the city's downtown government center along Lacey Boulevard.

With the new 144,460 square-foot facility now in the works, the Kings County Superior Court will bring all of its divisions into one building housing 12 courtrooms, a jury assembly room, offices and a full-height atrium and lobby waiting area with a skylight letting in natural light.

The building will also include an underground tunnel connecting the nearby county jail through which inmates can be safely transported.

The courthouse will be built using recycled, green and regionally sourced materials. Shading devices and new glass technologies will also mitigate summer heat.

Expected to cost around $92 million, the project is one of six in the state still fortunate enough to maintain funding from the SB 1407 court user fee program of 2008 after state budget shortfalls caused nearly two dozen others to be delayed or cancelled over the last year.

Sundt Construction of Tempe, Ariz. broke ground recently on the courthouse, sited on a 9.5-acre plot just a few hundred feet west of the county jail along Kings County Drive and 12th Avenue.

The company expects to wrap up on the building in November 2015, while staff and furnishings will be moved in around January the following year.

According to Court Executive Officer Todd Barton, the building will allow the court to operate more efficiently under one roof and also help ease some strain and overcrowding since the system's Lemoore branch around 10 miles away was closed last September in the wake of budget reductions.

"You're going to have all the judges in one building so there's a plus to that," he said. "You're going to have all the clerks in one building and you're going to build camaraderie and motivation."

The Kings County Superior Court also has a branch in Corcoran and another in Avenal.