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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Congressman Jim Costa, D-Fresno, addresses the audience at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new federal courthouse being built at Central Park in downtown Bakersfield. Several hundred people ignored the high temperatures and gathered for the event Monday morning. The building will be approximately 33,400-square-feet and be complete in 2012.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

From left, Jeffrey E. Neely, U.S. General Services Administration; Martha Johnson, also of the GSA; Congressman Jim Costa, D-Fresno; Bakersfield Mayor Harvey L. Hall; Anthony W. Ishii of U.S. District Court, eastern district of California; and Steve Crawford with T.B. Penick

The construction of a federal courthouse in Bakersfield is expected to create scores of short-term construction jobs for locals over the next two years, officials said at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.

The project, years in the making and designed to help handle rising federal caseloads, will house a U.S. Magistrate Court plus Marshals Service and Probation and Pretrial Services offices.

Rhode Island-based Gilbane will oversee the design and construction of the 33,400-square-foot building in Central Park. At least 70 percent of the approximately 250 labor positions will be filled by area workers, Gilbane senior project executive Mark Miller said.

The $28.5 million endeavor is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also referred to as the federal stimulus bill. It's expected to be complete by 2012.

"This is part of a continuing effort to rejuvenate the economy," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said. "It will have an economic ripple effect."

Steve Crawford, business operations manger for subcontractor T.B. Penick & Sons, said nearly three-fourths of the company's 30 employees on this project will be hired locally.

Crawford added that out-of-town hires also contribute to the local economy by staying at hotels and spending their earnings in and around Bakersfield.

Martha Johnson, an administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration, praised the building's energy-efficient features and promotion of green jobs.

"It's a permanent statement about investment in the community," Johnson said. "It's a real anchor."

Across the lake from the groundbreaking ceremony, managers and laborers from Kern County Construction Boot Camp held signs in hopes of securing some of the job openings for the minority and at-risk people who have been trained by the company. They said hiring from their pool would help reduce crime and homelessness.

"We just want to be a part of it," said laborer Michael Mooney, pointing to the construction site.

Perhaps no one was more excited than Jennifer Thurston, a U.S. District Court magistrate judge for the eastern district of California. The Bakersfield native and former attorney with the Kern County Counsel's office will be the presiding judge at the new courthouse.

Thurston said a portion of the jobs within the new courthouse could be available to locals, although many have been allocated to transfers.

In any case, having a federal courthouse in Bakersfield will keep her and other local residents from having to travel to Fresno for certain judicial matters.

"I can't wait," Thurston said.