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bobliocatt

New Courthouse project in serious trouble

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City considers 5 ways to save on courthouse

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By MATT GALNOR

The Times-Union

The dome atop the planned Duval County Courthouse, the basement below the building and the two wings that would saddle the massive structure could all be cut, according to one proposal presented in closed-door meetings Tuesday.

The city presented five scenarios that included various degrees of cuts, all in an effort to bring the now $287 million project back down to the $232 million budget Mayor John Peyton and the City Council have promised.

Project officials from the city briefed a group of judges Tuesday afternoon, then made a similar presentation to Peyton.

The scenario garnering the most attention and discussion would get rid of the dome and the basement, reserved mostly for judges' parking, while leaving the wings for future expansion. Those cuts, along with filling in the planned rotunda and changing one of the entrances, would save more than $18.2 million.

All five scenarios include cutting $17.2 million in architectural and structural work -- including $8.2 million by using less expensive building finishes. All five would also cut $14.4 million in electrical and plumbing changes, all part of the value engineering city officials say is common in projects of this magnitude.

Chief Judge Donald Moran called the meeting "informative" but declined further comment.

The judges are expected to discuss the potential changes and get back with the city by the end of next week, said Dan Kleman, the city's chief operating officer.

Peyton said the new details on what could be eliminated show him the project is getting back on track. While the finished product will likely look significantly different than the initial plans, Peyton said the integrity of the building will remain intact.

"I have not seen anything that would threaten the quality of the building," Peyton said.

Other scenarios include keeping the wings, but using a less expensive material on the outside of the building; eliminating one of the seven floors and reducing the size of three of the floors.

Peyton, who has been in office less than a year, is in the midst of his second major cost-cutting with the project. This round comes after an independent audit released last month that showed costs had soared to $287 million.

"Our goal was obviously not front and center with everyone working on the project," Peyton told the City Council on Tuesday.

The audit led to Peyton's decision to fire Jacobs Facilities, the firm hired to manage the project.

"Clearly, we were getting some bad advice from our consultants," Councilman Lake Ray said.

Peyton addressed the council Tuesday for his quarterly Better Jacksonville Plan update and fielded plenty of questions on the courthouse. Council members asked for specifics on how the cost may be reduced, and Peyton, who mentioned the dome and the basement, said final decisions hadn't been made.

Peyton's first round of courthouse cuts came last summer and fall when he shelled courtrooms and cut some fixtures in lobbying the council to increase the budget to a maximum of $232 million. The budget was $190 million when voters approved the Better Jacksonville Plan and a half-cent sales tax in 2000. The budget was later increased to $211 million by Mayor John Delaney.

The project, which will encompass seven city blocks, is expected to be finished in December 2007.

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Just pay less for the judges and staff. Charge them for parkings. Keep everything.

Judges should not make more than 50 K per year.

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This price cutting thing is really troubling me. Cutting of parts of the building to make the budget work, will alter the look of the complex. I think the best thing to do would be to scrap this plan altogether and revisit some of the other finalist proposals, which looked better, imo, anyway.

Current design

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current design for courthouse garage with street retail

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the other designs, not chosen

KBJ's (The one I like best)

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Rink Reynolds Diamond Fisher

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Spillis Candela DMJM with Porphyrios Associates (well this one is pretty ugly)

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Cut the dome off? ARE THEY CRAZY?! That would look horrible! What would that building be without its routunda? A piece of crap, that's what! I'm really starting to get annoyed with all this cheapness. I think they should either fork over the money and screw the budget cuts, or go with KBJ's design. And does anyone know how many taxdollars they're spending on all this budget cut research? Who are they paying to study all these possibilities?

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