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Morgan Hill
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October 25, 2021

Courthouse squabble an embarassment an embarrassment

We
’re glad that Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County officials have
begun to resolve their differences following their recent spat
regarding the long-planned Morgan Hill Courthouse – but they should
all be ashamed that they allowed the situation to deteriorate as
much as they did.
We’re glad that Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County officials have begun to resolve their differences following their recent spat regarding the long-planned Morgan Hill Courthouse – but they should all be ashamed that they allowed the situation to deteriorate as much as they did.

City Council members have loudly complained that the county has left them out of the planning process for the courthouse, and have suggested that county officials are not living up to an agreement to work cooperatively on the facility’s design.

County officials respond that the city missed several design meetings, claim they are going beyond requirements of the agreement, and say council members were rude to the courthouse project manager during a February Redevelopment Agency meeting. The courthouse, slated to open by the end of 2005 at Butterfield Boulevard and Diana Avenue, will replace the mold-riddled South County Justice Center in San Martin.

The courthouse will be a great boon to Morgan Hill and its downtown. It promises to increase the number of shoppers and diners, especially downtown, and will bring jobs and visitors to town – all of which are in short supply in these tight economic times.

But if county and city officials can’t work together better than a bunch of sugared-up preschoolers unable to share a favorite toy at a play date, South County citizens will be stuck with the “portable” courthouse parked next to the South County Justice Center in San Martin for years. Design standards for the 80,000-square-foot building – which comes with a $40 million price tag – are much higher than those used for the dated, ugly county buildings that dot the acreage near Highland Avenue and Monterey Highway in San Martin.

Morgan Hill citizens have been promised a beautiful facility – not a tilt-up, big-box style monstrosity, which is how it appeared to Councilman Larry Carr – and they are counting on city and county employees and elected officials to make that happen. Not only that, they are kicking in $7 million of redevelopment agency funds to make it a reality.

We don’t want to hear any more he-said/she-said finger-pointing accusations. We don’t want any more multipage epistles decrying rude behavior. We don’t want to hear that officials aren’t attending meetings to plan important project details.

What Morgan Hill citizens do want is for city and county staff and elected officials to work together cooperatively to get this project done on time and within budget, and for the end result to be a facility that Morgan Hill residents – and all South County citizens – can be proud of.

The only way to make that happen is, as Mayor Dennis Kennedy put it, is to “lower the rhetoric” and, as Councilman Steve Tate said, to treat the project as “a partnership.”

Council has already sent a letter of apology to the county that was acknowledge at Wednesday’s meeting.

But words are easy. Now comes the hard – and important – part: living by them. Elected officials and county staff work for us. Our taxes pay their salaries (though City Council is essentially a volunteer position) and fund their projects. Cooperation, a beautiful courthouse open by the end of 2005 and costing no more than $40 million; we, the citizens of Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County, who are city and county staff’s and elected officials’ bosses and financial backers, expect nothing less.

The public is invited to review, judge and voice their opinions on the courthouse design at a workshop Thursday, March 27, from 7-9 p.m. at City Council Chambers, City Hall, 17555 Peak Ave. Details: 779-7271.

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