The public may hear later this year about progress on a $63 million plan to replace Abbotsford’s courthouse, which was found five years ago to be vermin-infested and plagued by “very serious functional, overcrowding, security and safety issues.”
In February of 2014, the province gave a consortium of five Fraser Valley municipalities, including Abbotsford, $600,000 to develop a 20-year expansion plan for courthouse expansion in the region.
That plan listed a new courthouse in Abbotsford as “high priority,” and suggested a $63.7 million replacement with nine provincial and five supreme courtrooms that could be located on the site of the present building on South Fraser Way.
“Abbotsford Provincial Courthouse has serious deficiencies and it will be difficult to maintain safe and effective operations at this location beyond 2018,” said the report, which was completed by Cornerstone Planning Group of Vancouver. A previous report, in 2011, had found a variety of problems at the current building, including asbestos, and “vermin infestation.”
The 2014 report, which said the Fraser Valley needed 32 provincial courtrooms but only had 22.
“The status quo is not sustainable,” its authors wrote.
The first project envisioned by the report’s authors was an expansion of the Surrey Provincial Courthouse, adding five courtrooms. In June, construction started on just such a facility, with a $33.5 million expansion adding three courtrooms and two hearing rooms.
But there has been little said publicly about Abbotsford getting a new courthouse.
In response to questions from The News, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement saying it was working on implementing the 2014 plan.
“Work for the Abbotsford planning phase is underway, and we hope to have more information on progress later in 2017,” the statement said. “While much remains to be done, we are taking steps to ensure that citizens in the Lower Fraser Valley have timely access to justice for the next generation.”
The 2014 report also suggested centralizing the majority of Supreme court cases at a new Abbotsford courthouse to maximize efficiencies. That created worries in Chilliwack that the building there would lose its Supreme Court rooms to Abbotsford. In 2015, Kevin Jardine, the assistant deputy minister of justice, said that had originally been the plan, but that when the government accepted the plan, it did so with the exception that Chilliwack would retain its Supreme Court presence.