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Chief Justice Seeking $90M for New Kona Courthouse

February 12, 2013, 10:58 AM HST
* Updated February 13, 9:41 AM
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Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald is asking the state Legislature for $90 million in construction funding for a new courthouse in Kona.

In last week’s State of the Judiciary address, Recktenwald said the state Judiciary would be seeking the funding to consolidate West Hawaii court operations.

“We are currently holding court  in three different locations there, in buildings that were not designed for that purpose, and that accordingly present challenges to secure,” he said. “The need for a new courthouse has been clear for decades.”

Recktenwald noted that a detailed environmental study has been completed for a site near the county’s West Hawaii Civic Center, and design work is moving forward. The site-selection process was completed in March 2012.

Lawmakers in 2011 appropriated $4.5 million for land acquisition and $7.5 million for design.

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“The time has come to provide Kona with a secure, efficient and modern court facility,” Recktenwald said.

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A three-story, 175,000-square-foot courthouse costing $91.7 million was opened in Hilo in 2009. That facility consolidated court proceedings that were being held in a variety of locations around Hilo.

The biennial speech – a 160-year tradition, the Judiciary said – was carried on the Judiciary’s new YouTube channel, marking the first time it has been delivered via social media.

In recent years the state Legislature has invited the chief justice to deliver the address before a joint session, but this year that did not occur. Legislative leaders said scheduling conflicts was the reason.

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Recktenwald’s address also noted the need for additional security at courthouses which he described as “an essential ingredient of an effective judicial system that is often overlooked.”

The deputy sheriffs “do a great job, but they are stretched too thin,” he said, so the Judiciary is supporting a request from the state Department of Public Safety for an additional 16 to bolster security at courts.

According to the governor’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, that would include seven deputy sheriff positions for the Big Island, eight for Oahu and one for Maui.

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