2012-07-27 / Front Page
City council agrees to help finance East County Courthouse
As part of a countywide effort to keep the East County Courthouse from closing altogether, Moorpark city officials last week agreed to help buy the county court system some time and pitch in $25,000 annually for the next two years.
The East County Courthouse in Simi Valley, which had already been operating on a parttime basis since late 2011, was supposed to close completely on June 25 and its remaining services transferred to the Hall of Justice in Ventura.
But to prevent the closure for at least two more years, city and county officials have begun banding together to foot the courthouse’s annual $275,000 bill, which pays for the operation of one courtroom in Simi Valley two days per week.
Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, who developed the short-term plan in partnership with officials from the City of Simi Valley, said the money would act as a “bridge loan” while court officials work to develop and implement a longterm funding plan.
“All of us keeping this courthouse open is critical—critical for the citizens of Ventura County,” Foy said. “We’re not here to bail out the state. We’re trying to do a bridge loan so we can work through some of the issues.
“Just because the state has failed us, we can’t fail our citizens . . . and we must move forward.”
The Ventura County Superior Court announced the closure of its East County Courthouse in April, citing the organization’s ever-increasing budget deficit as the primary reason.
The court estimates a shortfall of $10.5 million for fiscal year 2012-13, a figure that could jump to $12.7 million if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiatives are not approved by voters in November.
“Everybody understands the ramifications of closing down a courthouse,” Foy said. “Driving to Ventura and being a county with only one courthouse for 850,000 people puts us as the largest population with only one courthouse.”
Earlier this month, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to pitch in $50,000 per year for the next two years from the county’s general fund to help keep the courthouse open.
Foy’s proposed interim plan then called for the cities of Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura to come up with the remaining $225,000 per year.
As of this week, the city of Simi Valley confirmed an annual contribution of $75,000. Thousand Oaks officials agreed to pitch in $65,000 for one year only.
During a City Council meeting on July 18, Moorpark officials voted unanimously to allocate $25,000 per year from the city’s general fund reserves to help the cause.
The City of Camarillo declined to contribute. The cities of Oxnard and Ventura—which are being asked make two annual contributions of $15,000, $30,000 and $15,000 respectively— will confirm their participation in the plan within the next few weeks, Foy said.
“This is a drastic time,” the supervisor said to the Moorpark City Council. “I look at the courts—at that (nearly) $13-million deficit they’re dealing with—it’s a difficult situation. But you at the same time, the state has taken your money from redevelopment. But again, we cannot fail our people.
“I know as elected officials, we have to maintain this kind of thing. It’s not something we like to do, but it’s something we have to do.”
The East County Courthouse at 3855 Alamo St. in Simi Valley has one ourtroom open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays to hear traffic infractions, small claims, landlordtenant disputes and some temporary restraining orders.
Court documents may also be filed in Simi during regular business hours.