EL CENTRO — The Brawley Courthouse will remain open indefinitely and will also be considered for additional use, according to comments made by Presiding Judge Christopher Plourd during the Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting Feb. 7.
The El Centro Infractions Court, which handles traffic violations, will be closed in its Valley Plaza location and will likely relocate to the Imperial County courthouse. The court in Winterhaven will continue to operate, according to Plourd.
Due to funding restrictions, initial plans to close the Brawley courthouse and expand the services of the courthouse in El Centro have been reconsidered. However, concerns were raised that residents of the Valley’s north end, including Brawley, Westmorland, Calipatria, and Niland, would be adversely affected by the closing of the Brawley Courthouse. The debate was put on hold when it was announced that the court construction-funding program would be stalled statewide. That stall is still in effect.
“There are two ways forward,” said Plourd. “One is to increase the revenues that are supported by selling bonds, or get the legislature in the state of California to refund the $1.6 billion that they swept from the court construction fund.”
Both options to pay for the construction appear infeasible at this time.
“The court building is several years out as best we can estimate. We are planning to move forward under the presumption that the court is not going to be built at least for the next couple of years,” Plourd said.
The tentative plan involves relocating the El Centro traffic court from the Valley Plaza shopping center as soon as the lease finishes.
“It’s a very costly lease. We have budget issues that we have to address. So we are going to fold the traffic court within the next 24 months, hopefully into our court,” Plourd explained.
Plourd acknowledged the move might cause further congestion near the courthouse and County offices, and assured the board that the implications of these steps would be assessed within the next six months. Yet, he also emphasized that the lack of funding would prevent the traffic court from operating at a separate location.
“We are facing budget deficits, like all counties in California,” said Plourd. “Our income is going significantly down.”
According to Plourd, the deficit is a result primarily from the California legislature granting traffic and fee amnesty to those funding the courts.
Since the Brawley court will remain open, Plourd suggested that staff and services from the El Centro traffic court may be diverted to the Brawley location.
“We are looking at Brawley to see if we can do more there,” he said.