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OPINION

The Septuagenarian Speaks: A peek inside Siskiyou County’s new courthouse

Bob Kaster
Bob Kaster writes the periodic column "The Septuagenerian Speaks" for the Siskiyou Daily News.

If you live in Yreka, it’s been pretty hard not to notice the new courthouse building as it has gradually taken shape. I would love to be able to eavesdrop on the conversations in the cars driving along Oregon Street as they pass by.  Here is what I imagine I might hear: “Wow, it’s big!” “It must have cost a lot of money!” “Who paid for it?” “Why do we need it?” “Why did they put it here?” “What’s going to happen to the old courthouse?” “I don’t like the architecture! It’s too modern!” “I love the architecture! It’s beautiful!” That is probably the tip of the iceberg. Surely everyone driving by has an opinion, or questions.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the inside of the new building.  Scheduled for opening in March, 2021, it is not completed, but definitely far enough along for me to picture and imagine the finished product. The members of our tour group were required to sign a liability waiver, and to wear hard hats and goggles as we stepped over and around ladders, equipment, and other objects normally at construction sites. Our tour guide was Renee McCanna-Crane, the Court Executive Officer. She is a very busy lady, as she has been tasked with the duties of a project manager; this in addition to her regular full-time job administering the Siskiyou County Superior Court. She is doing a great job, and her tour was excellent. The new building is very impressive!

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This project is important to me personally, having spent more than 20 years working in the old courthouse, and having participated in the early planning stages of the project to build a new one. I was a Superior Court Judge from 1989 to 2008, and know from personal experience how inadequate the existing courthouse is. Planning for a new courthouse has been ongoing since at least 2002, and probably before that. On October 10, 2002, our court published a 121-page written “Facilities Master Plan.” The master plan addressed the deficiencies of the existing facilities, including substantial security concerns. The master plan examined three options for solving the facilities issues, two of which involved attempting to reconfigure the existing spaces, and the third calling for new construction. The master plan convincingly supported the third option, construction of a new facility, which, at that time, was little more than a pipe dream. Although for years the court had been saving and accumulating a “courthouse construction fund” to be used for new facilities, the amount of the fund was far short of what was needed.

The fact that this magnificent new building is actually becoming a reality soon to be open for business is just short of miraculous. Actually “miraculous” may not quite be the correct word to describe how we got here. The result is the product of a combination of many good things coming together.  Good fortune is a part of it, but mainly it is the result of the vision, hard work, and never-say-die perseverance of the people who have made it happen. This and a remarkable working-together of officials representing the state, the county, the city, and our local court. This sort of cooperation and collaboration between government officials is rarely seen in today’s world.  Maybe that’s the “miraculous” part.

I am very proud of this project, and believe that the construction of our new courthouse will be considered by future historians as a major historical event benefiting our town and all of Siskiyou County. In future columns I plan to tell you more about the project, how it came about, and why it is such a good thing. If you are among those with questions or comments about the project, I’d love to hear from you. My email is septuagenarianspeaks@gmail.com.

Bob Kaster is a long-time Yreka resident and retired Superior Court judge. As a lawyer and judge he wrote many legal briefs and judicial opinions but after retiring has enjoyed writing for fun. He has written several guest opinions for the Siskiyou Daily News and some short stories for his grandkids. He is currently working on a second full-length novel.