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PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
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County pitches value of new courthouse to state study group

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From page A1 | August 31, 2012 | 14 Comments

El Dorado County Supervisors directed a formal request to the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal essentially to “fish or cut bait.” At issue is the Superior Court facility proposed for development adjacent to the El Dorado County jail in Placerville.

As reported in Wednesday’s Mountain Democrat, broad cuts to the state’s judicial system budget could derail progress on what had appeared to be a done deal. The county has offered to swap more than 7 acres of land near the jail in return for space currently occupied by Superior Court in the Government Center’s Building C. That deal, along with a number of related improvements is estimated to be worth nearly $3 million in savings to the state’s facilities fund for site acquisition.

The property is held by the Briggs Family Trust and the negotiations are subject to ratification by that entity. Over the course of discussions and decisions at the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Ron Briggs has recused himself each time the matter of the property came up.

In addition to the land, the county has offered to complete $1.5 million in roadway improvements connected to future realignment of Ray Lawyer Drive as part of the West Placerville Interchange project.

Court properties are managed by the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, the AOC, and within that entity is the Facilities Working Group. The Board of Supervisors addressed its request to Justice Brad Hill, chairman of the working group.

The letter of request concludes by noting that “the terms outlined herein have been consistent between the AOC’s office and the County of El Dorado for the past nine months. The terms are still acceptable for the current time but may not be in the future.”

Earlier in the letter, Board Chairman John Knight had written that if the deal does not go through, it would result in “driving up the cost of the new Placerville courthouse.”

The El Dorado County facility is one of more than two dozen projects being reviewed by the state’s Court Facilities Working Group over three days next week in San Francisco. El Dorado County Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury will represent the county at the hearings and will convey the sense of urgency expressed by the Board of Supervisors along with the “too good to pass up” offer being tendered.

“We desperately need a safe and secure environment where we can operate efficiently. And the county stands to save millions by putting the court adjacent to the jail, because of the cost of transporting prisoners to the current courts and guarding them,” Judge Kingsbury was quoted earlier this week.

Project-specific decisions are not expected before next year, the Mountain Democrat reported in the previous story.

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Discussion | 14 comments

  • Something stinks....August 31, 2012 - 8:20 pm

    Supervisors Jack Sweeney and John Knight push for the new court house in an area surrounded by property owned by Supervisor Ron Briggs’ family, a deal that will make them even more rich. The county would have to spend big bucks for water, sewage and roads to the new Briggs courthouse, further enhancing the value to the surrounding Briggs land. If the real reason for the new building was to have a court house for criminal cases close to the jail, why not use the County’s Building C nearby that is all ready used for criminal cases? Why not kick the county’s planning and other non-court related staff out of that court house and use the entire building for that purpose? Nah, that's too sensible and besides it would not help Supervisor Brigg and that’s not the way the I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine corrupt politics in this county works. While Briggs recued himself from voting on this boondoggle, there was no need for him to vote on filling up his pockets. The other supervisors will help him. Meanwhile, Briggs and other supervisors have long backed Jack Sweeney’s scandalous animal shelter project, the purchase from long time family friends of Jack Sweeney of 10 landlocked acres that is largely under water most months of the year. The contract signed for the county by Sweeney requires that county build a big county road to this landlocked property thereby adding greatly to the value of the surrounding property owned by Sweeney’s friends. It was later learned that the cost to taxpayers for just that road alone would be at least an extra $1.5 million, according to one grand jury report. http://www.edcgov.us/Government/GrandJury/Report_2009-2010/GJ09-013.aspx After at least six years it looks like this money pit will never result in an animal shelter or anything else, besides more additional wasted county money, YOUR money. It really doesn’t matter that Supervisor Briggs did not formally take action on this court house swindle, again, Sweeney and other supervisors have done their part for him. And as long as there is no express exchange of promises, these crooks might still escape criminal charges. Hmm, and you thought David Machado and city politics was bad? Now Sweeney’s district is supposed to include the city of Placerville but do you really think he did anything to find out how economically devastating the closure of the old court house would be on downtown business? Of course not. Downtown business, all ready suffering, would end up with the city looking like a ghost town. Just ask local shops, restaurants and bars how much of their business now stems from lawyers, staff and others court house visitors trading with them each day. Local politicians look out for themselves. Now when Knight and Sweeney leave office at the end of the year, what do you think they will be doing? No, they are barred by law from doing what one law would call being lobbyists with the county for one year. But now seriously, they don’t need to do that. Sweeney was a surveyor in a business his son now owns and Knight was in the real estate business. With all the big favors they’ve done for special interests, do you think they will have any problem finding more business once they are out of office? For county politicians, El Dorado seems to mean golden treasures while informed taxpayers who are getting robbed can think it just means corrupt as usual. Yep, it stinks.

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  • To something stinks-From under informedSeptember 01, 2012 - 1:47 am

    First let me say you’re well informed and that the county really needs up dated court facilities, we have some really bad guys housed processed here in EDC. If you really wanted to change the direction of the court house project you needed to have started when Briggs Senior was lobbying the transportation commission in the early 80s and before to establish the counties master calculation (routes) plan. At this point its to late to change course, all involved have been rewarded with long term lucrative building leases (Blue Shield/Carlton buildings) and other deals like Jacks project and now its Briggs turn. The reason they can get away with running the county like a family business is that our watch dog agency, the EDC Grand Jury is selected by our elected judges who don’t get elected without BOS support. Additionally any Judges has the authority to dismiss an applicant for any good reason hes willing to stand behind if questioned. What does bother me since where talking about the Briggs family; the Briggs family is now working on the third generation in local government. Ron Briggs sister is married to EDC Judge Bailey at SLT. Ron’s nephew a veteran, has recently been given a job by Bill Schultz in the Veterans Service Office and then appointed by uncle Ron to the EDC Veterans Affairs Commission (which he receives a salary for attending) and soon will be elected commission chairmen, all the time being groomed to fill in behind Bill Schultz as the Counties Veterans Service Officer or some elected position. Ron’s son is a sitting member of the EDC Republican Central Committee and certain to run for elected office in EDC before long, I would guess the Election Office which seems to be very important to these guys. And the cycle goes on and on.

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  • Fat AlbertSeptember 01, 2012 - 5:32 am

    Ahhh, Family Values! And, speaking of handing down the family business, let's not forget Sweeney's kid, on the Republican Central Committee also. These folks are banking on the fact that being nominated in this county as a Repub guarantees election, and a lifetime of eating at the public trough - all the while complaining about Big Government.

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  • On the other handSeptember 01, 2012 - 6:26 am

    The state has made the decision to build another Courthouse and it seems like it is going to happen, it is just a matter of when it will occur. Clearly, it will have an impact on Placerville, but the delay gives the city time to develop a plan. Long term, it really does makes sense to have the EDC jail and court house together and that is probably the reason the Briggs family owns the property. The big question is why do this transaction now??? The property is in a trust - a long term entity and the state funding is suspect so it could be 5-10 years before anything gets done. Why now?? Why the rush??? There is a piece missing from the story

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  • under informed, use the Veerkamp Ranch as the old Court House siteSeptember 01, 2012 - 10:00 am

    Yes, family values; on the other hand the decision where to build the court House is still up in the air. There are other sites that make sense; One that I think may make work is behind the County Office of Education on Green Valley Road, the old Veerkamp Ranch now owned by the Dawson family. The infrastructure is already in place to the site paid for with tax dollars for the office of education, and the cost of roads and improvements on site would be about the same as the Briggs property. Yes, it’s away from the jail but that’s the way it is in most counties in California and now that I think about security it’s maybe something that should be considered. The old Veerkamp Ranch property behind the office of education is 375 ac. and could be purchased, may guess, for less than a quarter of what the Briggs want for their commercial property and no assessment district for the overpass and other improvement, which the county would end up paying a big chuck of because of the lease agreement on the old Blue Shield building and jail. There are a lot of good reason to build the Court House off Green Valley Rd.; If you live in El Dorado Hills with it growing population its more centralized, larger campus that could house the new Sheriffs Dept. and other county facilities like the animal shelter, the County Fair could be relocated there with the museum, great site for that and the fair grounds 53 acres which is zoned commercial could be developed taken the sting out of the Court House relocation for the City of Placerville. Millions could be saved by hooking up with Cold Springs Rd on the north side of the property, though the ranch, a road needs to be built anyway, to Green Valley Road then on to Missouri Flat Rd to Pleasant Valley Road, instant HYWY #49. The down side would be convincing a few residents on the west side of the ranch that its good for the county and the tax payers dollars and those who have been waiting to make their retirements off this project wouldnt do as well.

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  • FernSeptember 01, 2012 - 2:39 pm

    Development of the family property is the only reason Briggs ran for office!

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  • Mr Steers, are you ill?September 01, 2012 - 6:16 pm

    I can’t believe that Mr. Steers doesn’t have a comment on this issue, after all, most of the players in this Court House boondoggle theater of life are fellow members of the Republican Central Committee.

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  • EDC Chamber, old Court House downtownSeptember 02, 2012 - 6:54 am

    When the Court House moves out of downtown Placerville, if it ever does, the new tenant at a dollar a year will be the EDC Chamber of Commerce. The agreement was one of Jacks Sweeney’s little side deals in 1988-89. No sales tax to the city, no museum just free campaign office and meeting space for the RIGHT political party, lobbying for the RIGHT projects and the RIGHT candidates why the taxpayer pick up the bill for rent and salaries, not a bad deal at all. A good plan would be to sell or lease all three county owned downtown builds at market value, Court, DA, and Chamber buildings as surplus property to help pay for the new Sheriffs Office and Court House. Let the Chamber find its own building and pay for its own salaries why it lobbies for the RIGHT party, the RIGHT projects and the RIGHT candidates.

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  • residentSeptember 02, 2012 - 7:13 am

    To the above commenter, I thought I had become shock-proof, but as it turns out, every day is a new day. Is there any documentation about the proposed handing over of the Courthouse to the Chamber?

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  • To resident; even organized crime thinks aheadSeptember 02, 2012 - 10:42 am

    The lease agreement was approved by the BOS just after new judges were elected in 1988-89 as I recall. Each building has a file in General Services now the property division under the CAO, the agreement may or may not be in that file, but there’s no question it was on the BOS agenda and a copy will be in the board office. The BOS have intentional removed/fired 17 General Services Directors some of them interim, who were responsible for county property though that position since 1990, expensive way to keep your secrets. Many of the 17 Directors were talented smart men, who were capable of managing projects larger than the proposed courthouse, master planning and managing three hundred thousand sq. ft.+- of county rental space. But issues of property/development and the secrets surrounding them are held close by the BOS, only the RIGHT people get locative building leases, improvement contracts and are allowed to be involved in building construction and master planning. Kind of an exchange of wealth from county taxpayers to the private sector. As just a possible good example; the 2000-acre Texas Hill Reservoir site, purchased for a water storage facility that failed under Jack Sweeney’s leadership, twice costing county tax payers more than 50 million dollars twenty years ago. The site is south of Placerville airport and no doubt some of the most beautiful property in El Dorado County on both sides of Weber creek. The last 1800 acres were purchased with part of 22 million in bond money handled by Brown and Wood Bond Counsel/Attorneys in SF approved by the BOS with suspected commissions paid to the CAO at the time. After the failure of the reservoir projects (SOFAR-Texas Hill Reservoir) the County quietly handed the property and bonds off to EID who claim that it may still be used even though the water would need to be pumped up and out of the reservoir at ten times or more the current water rate, all the design, research, construction plans would need to be redone and environmental restraints make it next to impossible. Additionally, a major road was planned as part of the counties master circulation plan around the reservoir leaving Hywy # 50 west of Placerville to Pleasant Valley Road then back to Hywy # 50 near Apple Hill. To understand and appriate the concept of long range planning you need to think like the Briggs family, the people who guide the other BOS members and those who guide them. As just an example of how things may work in EDC, the question is; was the property really ever meant to be a reservoir? Two thousand acres, next to the Placerville City limits with a airport, 300 acres for a world class golf course (old Fausel ranch), eight thousand acre foot earthen dam-lake on Weber creek who’s design was paid for by the taxpayers as part of the reservoir project as an alternative to a larger facility. The only thing missing are the two million dollar homes on the pine and oak cover slopes leading down to Weber Lake and the sign that says, “Private-Gated Community”. THINK BIG, the RIGHT people do, the people who guide the BOS do and so does organized crime.

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  • residentSeptember 02, 2012 - 12:24 pm

    BOS and organized crime mentioned in the same breath? Time for "In The Know" to come on board and explain it all away. Or, better yet, he could dig out those documents and PROVE once and for all that you're talking nonsense. Unfortunately, I suspect that will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, thank you very much. Something tells me you know whereof you speak.

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  • deerSeptember 02, 2012 - 1:12 pm

    http://www.edcgov.us/bosarchive/minutes/search.asp

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  • residentSeptember 02, 2012 - 1:25 pm

    Useful link. Thanks.

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  • resident, how is Bernard these daysSeptember 02, 2012 - 1:41 pm

    They though their groups like the Republican Central Committee, Friends of El Dorado County, Taxpayers Assoc.and EDC Citizens for water and others may do some good but without question have made El Dorado County’s planning process dysfunctional. The past a current practices and politics have made it so EDC may not, on its own, be able to create plans for growth that will be sustainable in the long run. EDC represents the cutting edge of dysfunction when it comes to County governments in California. One example is the 14-year struggle to develop a general plan for the county, approved in 2004 and facing some revisions right now, and the biggest reason for most of the problem is economic pressures from development interests.

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