Judicial/Police-Jail Complex may become state model

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By Carol A. Clark

By May 2010, residents of Los Alamos county will be first in New Mexico to utilize a unique judicial facility in which their District, municipal and magistrate courts share the same space.

“This facility is going to benefit our citizens and I hope it becomes a model of how to do business in New Mexico,” said County Council Chair Jim Hall before major players in the project turned over shovels of dirt to officially kick off the historic project Tuesday morning.

The long-awaited ceremony took place in the lot adjacent to the police station on Trinity Drive.

The Judicial/Police/Jail Complex is the result of highly praised coordination between judges, county staff, council members, police and others.

“I’m very excited that the project is finally getting underway and I’m thrilled about the cooperation between all of the people involved in this project,” Magistrate Judge Pat Casados said.

The intent of combining the three courts into one building is to achieve cost-saving efficiencies while at the same time provide enhance service and convenience to the public. It likely will become the model for smaller municipalities where each court isn’t in session daily, which makes sharing space feasible.

The new complex will allow the county to meet its judiciary requirements, provide a modern police-jail facility to meet future needs with minimal staffing increases, and accommodate potential parking and infrastructure needs on the former Municipal Site.

“This marks another important step in rebuilding our outdated infrastructure,” County Administrator Max Baker said. “The complex will help us meet our state mandates in terms of providing court facilities for our residents. It will also help us in meeting federal guidelines for jails, which unfortunately, the county hadn’t been able to do for a couple of years.”

Police Chief Wayne Torpy has played an intrigral role in the development of the new complex during the last couple of years.

“This is an important project for our police and court system,” he said. “The system of justice we use involves all three entities and you can’t fix one without fixing all three. This new complex will create a much better situation for our community.”

Municipal Judge Alan Kirk agreed saying, “I think it’s a much needed facility, unique in having all three courts sharing space in one facility. It will have a positive impact on the community.”

The project is in its final design stage. It will replace the existing 31-year-old police building, which does not meet today’s standards.

“The jail can barely accommodate women inmates and cannot handle juveniles,” Hall said. “This is part of our civic responsibility to take care of our own.”

The complex also will replace the former Municipal Court that has operated in temporary quarters in the Community Building since the Municipal Building structure was declared unsafe last year. The project completion date is convenient timing for the Magistrate Court with its lease set to expire in June 2010.

WH Pacific is the project contractor and HB Construction holds the Manager-At-Risk contract.

For project details access www.losalamosnm.us.