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City expects courthouse 'guarantee'

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By MARY KELLI PALKA

The Times-Union

Jacksonville officials anticipate getting a guarantee from the construction manager by Oct. 27 on how much it'll cost to build the new Duval County Courthouse complex, the City Council was told Wednesday.

The council held a special meeting to ask questions about the controversial and overbudget courthouse project. Mayor John Peyton did not attend. But his chief operating officer, Dan Kleman, said he thinks a signed contract between the city and Skanska Dynamic Partners with a guaranteed maximum price will provide the comfort necessary for the council to approve an appeal by Peyton to raise the project budget from $232 million to about $268 million.

Peyton plans to use a $15 surcharge on court fines to help pay for the project.

Much of the three-hour meeting was taken up with city officials, a consultant and the architect talking about the history of the project and providing an overview of the status of the building.

Council President Elaine Brown said she plans to announce soon members of a special committee to review more details of the project.

Councilman Lake Ray said he was disappointed with Wednesday's meeting, calling it "staged" and "rehearsed."

Ray, and fellow council members Glorious Johnson and Jerry Holland, have proposed halting all courthouse work for three months while the city seeks bids from companies who would design and build the facility -- all within the $232 million budget.

mary.palkajacksonville.com, (904) 359-4104

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._16778309.shtml.

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I'm ready to see the structure get off the ground. It's about time! Here's another courthouse article: (lol, notice the name of the writer!)

Mayor continues courthouse offensive

by Richard Prior

Staff Writer

For the second consecutive day, Mayor John Peyton urged supporters of a new Duval County Courthouse to weigh in against the protesting

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Courthouse restart could cost $30 million

by Bradley Parsons

Staff Writer

Starting over on the new Duval County Courthouse, as some on the City Council advocate, will cost the City about $30 million and delay the start of construction by more than a year on a project that is already behind schedule and over budget, the City

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Peyton issues warning

Courthouse bill too high, mayor says; if it's not lowered, he'll consider starting over

By MARY KELLI PALKA and MATT GALNOR

The Times-Union

Mayor John Peyton said Tuesday an early construction estimate for the new Duval County Courthouse complex is too high and, if it doesn't come down, he's considering starting the whole project over.

"I'm not afraid of starting over, but I think it's too early to make that decision," Peyton said.

Peyton is trying to convince the Jacksonville City Council to approve about $268 million for the complex. The original cost when voters approved the project in 2000 was $190 million, but it's currently at $232 million.

Skanska Dynamic Partners had been expected to submit a proposed guarantee maximum for construction cost by Oct. 20, with a final maximum price determined by today. Instead, Peyton said it could be Thursday or Friday before Skanska even submits its proposal.

Peyton said he has been told bids from subcontractors have been higher than expected and that Skanska officials are trying to negotiate those numbers down. He said he doesn't know howmuch the construction costs are over budget in the early estimate.

"This is a high-stakes game," Peyton said. "They know if they don't deliver the number, the project is at risk."

Skanska officials wouldn't comment on current estimates.

"The Skanska team is working 24-7 crunching numbers and will continue to do that until noontime on Thursday," said Paul McCormick, spokesman for Skanska.

Peyton said if he decides to scrap the current project and start over, there's no guarantee that Skanska and architect Cannon Design would be involved in a new project.

"I think it's safe to say all bets are off with the existing team," Peyton said.

About $49.5 million had been spent on the complex project as of the end of September, according to a document provided to council members from the council auditor this week.

Peyton said he thinks it's possible for the council to still vote on his proposed budget as planned on Nov. 9 if Skanska provides a suitable guaranteed maximum soon.

Council leaders say the current design hinges on bringing the project's budget in at $268 million.

"If anything were to come in high, it would cause everybody to step back and say 'What are we doing here?'" council President Elaine Brown said.

Council Vice President Kevin Hyde said he knew the early estimates came in higher than Peyton's office hoped, though he said he had not heard an exact number.

Hyde said the $268 million was designed to be a "worst case scenario" and that he wouldn't support anything higher. If it comes in much higher, Peyton would have to look at other options, Hyde said, including scrapping this plan and starting over.

"My suspicion would be that is certainly something he's got to be thinking pretty seriously about," Hyde said.

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Oh, I hope we start over! KBJ should be the next in line, unless the mayor has some sort of vendetta against them. It'll suck to have to wait even longer for this, but I'd rather have a nice building under budget than this expensive piece o' crap. 20 years from now, I don't think many people will care about this fiasco and its costs. But we'll hopefully have a nice building to admire.

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Although it could delay the project for another year, I also favor starting over, if starting on time means we end up with the current scaled down courthouse project.

Starting over would allow for a courthouse project that respects downtown's exisitng landscape, by fitting in to its surroundings. I also believe the courthouse should go vertical, with the city selling off the remaining unused peices of property, especially along Adams St, instead of constructing a horizontal complex, which would comsume 7 downtown blocks, all of which would be dead space, after typical weekday work hours.

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From First Coast News:

Council Members Say Courthouse Cost Reaches New Heights

By Alan Gionet

First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Three Jacksonville City Council members say the numbers they're hearing for the new courthouse would take the project beyond $300 million. The City has been attempting to contain the cost at $268 million after the price tag bounced from $190 million, to $211 and $232 million in the four years since its construction was approved in the Better Jacksonville Plan.

Council members Jerry Holland, Lake Ray and Glorious J. Johnson tell First Coast News the numbers come from people in construction and engineering. Ray says he's heard a number of $312 million and that's without furniture for the building and leaving thousands of square feet unfinished.

The estimates are being done at the behest of Mayor John Peyton and they're not complete yet. The figures, due this week would show the "gross maximum price," likely to be the top end of a construction estimate.

The Mayor's office did not return calls from First Coast News. Paul McCormick, a spokesman for Skanska Construction, which is completing the estimates told us tonight, "Skanska is working 24-7 and will until noon Thursday to continue crunching numbers."

Councilwoman Glorious J. Johnson said she was under pressure from voters to contain costs. "We want the judges to have a decent courthouse we really do. But we want it to be done right. We don't want it to go over the amount that we were told that it was supposed to be."

Mayor Peyton could ask for another extension as the figures are hammered down. But for now, the figures are due Thursday.

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Oh, I hope we start over!  KBJ should be the next in line, unless the mayor has some sort of vendetta against them.  It'll suck to have to wait even longer for this, but I'd rather have a nice building under budget than this expensive piece o' crap.  20 years from now, I don't think many people will care about this fiasco and its costs.  But we'll hopefully have a nice building to admire.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree 200%, especially with the part I put in bold.

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City agency OKs dome-free Duval courthouse design

The Downtown Development Authority approved a dome-free Duval County Courthouse design at its meeting Wednesday, reversing the decision of its Design Review Committee.

Architects removed the original domed top from the design to save approximately $1.7 million in the contested cost of the project. The Design Review Committee denied the altered plan, saying it hurt the architectural integrity of the courthouse and city. Board members said it was the "last chance" to preserve the design. However, the future of the courthouse remains in limbo.

Mayor John Peyton said Tuesday if the construction estimate for the courthouse doesn't come down, he is considering starting the project all over. Taxpayers approved a $190 million project and its current estimated cost is $232 million. Skanska Dynamic Partners is anticipated to submit its guaranteed maximum construction cost today.

^^ I guess the DDA standards are pretty low.

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Peyton should take the escape route on courthouse

There's a new dirty word in town and it's being used more and more.

When City Council members warn against a financial fiasco, in a road project perhaps, they say they don't want another "courthouse."

Supporters of a new convention center are bemoaning that they can't get any movement on their issue because the "courthouse" is consuming too much energy.

There was a time in Jacksonville's history that the words "floating nuclear power plants" were associated with folly. Now it's "courthouse."

And if Mayor John Peyton doesn't want to be spitting out the word "courthouse" in 2007 to explain how he lost his re-election bid, he had better pull the plug on the whole mess now.

Remember, folks, the courthouse debacle wasn't of Peyton's making. It began with the Better Jacksonville Plan and Mayor John Delaney.

To understand what happened, you have to understand that the various price tags that have been associated with the courthouse were pulled out of thin air. They had nothing to do with the actual cost of building the courthouse as it is currently designed.

The $190 million that voters were promised in the Better Jacksonville Plan would be the cost was based on how much money was available. The same was true when Delaney added $21 million of Better Jacksonville Plan contingency money to bring the total to $211 million.

Peyton compounded the problem when he took office by promising that not a penny more than $232 million would be spent on the courthouse.

Once again the $232 million wasn't based on the cost of building the courthouse. It was based on how much money could be raised by bonding some extra money Peyton had found lying around.

The same is true of the $268 million that Peyton has been pushing since reneging on his earlier promise. That's just how much money would be available if all of a $15 surcharge on traffic tickets was pumped into the project.

But reality is about to set in.

The courthouse contractor, Skanska Dynamic Partners, was supposed to submit a proposed guaranteed maximum price a week ago.

It will be at least today before that's done and you can bet your bottom dollar the tardiness isn't because that price is $268 million or below.

It's likely that the true cost of building the courthouse is millions of dollars above that.

Even if Skanska is bullied into saying the cost will be $268 million, why would City Council members, who have to sign off on the deal, trust that figure and why would Skanska want to risk its reputation on such a pledge?

There would have to be some hidden wiggle room for change orders and cost overruns built in.

The courthouse has consumed Peyton's first 16 months in office. It's time for him to say enough is enough, to blame the whole mess on Delaney and to say he's tried his best to save the courthouse as designed but it can't be done.

If the judges want to sue because they aren't getting the Taj Mahal they want, let them. Make them the bad guys.

Peyton should then come up with a design that is affordable, that meets the city's needs and that doesn't close off main downtown roadways such as Monroe Street.

If not, you can bet that the dirty word "courthouse" will be flying around a lot in the spring of 2007 when Peyton runs for a second term.

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Will The Courthouse Costs Bust The Budget?

By Jennifer Brice

First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- City Council Member Jerry Holland met with representatives of Skanska construction Wednesday night. Holland says the courthouse cost is at $298 million, $30 million over budget. Skanska said they would work feverishly through the night to crunch the number down.

Holland says his meeting with Skanska was an opportunity for the contractors to tell their side of the story. "They're concern is, 'Is it the contractors fault? And will it be blamed on the contractor?' I believe they believe the same way we do, that it's an inefficient design."

If over budget, Holland says Skanska's contract with the city would be terminated within 30 days.

Mayor's office representative Susie Wiles told First Coast News, "We will not know the GMP until tomorrow (Thursday) and we'll be surprised if it is over $300 million. The Mayor has made it very clear from the beginning, if the courthouse budget is busted, the city will not proceed with the current design. This might, or might not, include proceeding with the design firm or construction company."

The numbers are expected on the Mayor's desk Thursday.

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Mayor scraps courthouse plan

46779_400.jpg

By MARY KELLI PALKA and MATT GALNOR

The Times-Union

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton said this afternoon that he's scrapping current plans for a new Duval County Courthouse complex and will start over.

In a 1 p.m. meeting, Peyton told Chief Judge Donald Moran that estimated construction costs would push the overall project budget above $268 million, which is Peyton's current proposed budget. The mayor said he doesn't want to pour more money into the project.

Peyton has terminated the city's contract with the project construction manager and architect, saying in a news release that he had lost faith in the design and construction teams.

The City Council had been expected to vote on the mayor's proposed budget increase, which would add $36 million more to the current $232 million figure, next month.

Peyton is holding hold a 3 p.m. news conference this afternoon to discuss his decision and future plans for the project. The mayor said he has told his staff to get the most up to date information on the needs of the community and court users, develop a budget, and hire new design and construction teams.

Skanska Dynamic Partners, the construction manager, submitted a guaranteed maximum price of $225.3 million for construction costs on the project, bringing the overall budget to $294 million. The construction price is about $26 million more than the city set aside to build the project.

When Skanska submitted the guaranteed maximum price, they were still committed to building the courthouse on time and within that price, according to documents filed with the city.

Gary R. Miller, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Cannon Design, the architect, sent a letter to Peyton's office this morning in a last-ditch effort to keep the job.

"It is our opinion that the financial interests of the construction manager are at odds with the goal of the city to get a functional building at a fair price," Miller wrote.

Council members have been telling Peyton for weeks that if the guaranteed maximum price comes in above the $268 million, it's time to move on.

Voters in 2000 approved taxing themselves a half-cent to pay for the $2.2 billion Better Jacksonville Plan. Included in plans for new public buildings was a $190 million courthouse.

A new arena and ballpark came in on budget, but the courthouse has had financial problems from almost the beginning. When Mayor John Delaney, who came up with the Better Jacksonville Plan, left office in July 2003, he said he had the budget near $230 million. Peyton, who took office in July 2003, said he inherited a project at about $282 million, but that he cut the budget by $50 million.

About $59 million has been spent and committed on the project so far, with about $27 million not recoverable. It's not clear yet how much of that could be used for a new project.

mary.palkajacksonville.com, (904) 359-4104

matt.galnorjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4550

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor...ourthouse.shtml.

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Wow! I had a feeling that this would eventually happen? So is there going to be another design competition, or will he just pick one of the runner ups in the last competition. I hope it's KBJ's design. I think it included a dome, and it'll be a more-visible dome, since it's a taller building. It's almost comical, how KBJ suggested to use thei design a couple months ago. Now it just might come to that.

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I'm glad the Cannon-design-on the-cheap is gone, but like Urban Legend, I wonder what the next step will be. Will they turn to KBJ, simply hire an architect and give them a budget, or have another competition? I seriously doubt there will be another competition. Each entrant is paid for their designs, so that would be considered a luxury at this point.

And what will the budget be? 190, 211, 232 or 268 million? The city council approved $232 million, so I'm hoping they won't go any lower than that.

My preferences for tighting the budget would be:

1) Design a building with more floors and a smaller footprint, so that the excess land can be sold.

2) Less space in the new building itself, with non-core offices put somewhere else, like the old YMCA building across Laura St. from city hall.

3) Less extravangence on the interior, so that the exterior can still be an impressive one.

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I agree that the exterior should come first, since everyone will see it. Not everybody will step foot inside that building, but at some point in time, we'll all drive/walk by. Preferably walking, since it's more urban/eco-friendly, lol. I wonder if Monroe street will be reopened? Does anybody remember if KBJ's design left that street open? (not that KBJ will be selected, but a guy a dream...)

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The four designs from the courthouse design competition:

met_spicourthouse3_145.jpgSpillis Candela DMJM with Porphyrios Associates

met_rrdcourthouse1_144.jpgRink Reynolds Diamond Fisher Wilson

met_kbjcourthouse2_140.jpgKBJ Architects, Inc.

met_courthcannon4__138.jpgCannon Design

A few notes: While all of the designs sit squarely on Monroe St., The Cannon Model is the only one which sat on Clay St., requiring the utility lines to be moved (this was a hot topic about a year ago). I'd like a design that could leave Monroe St. open, as I think with the way Downtown is laid out, closing a east-west street is much more of a big deal than closing a north-south street.

In my opinion, let's not close any street (however, I'm not a frequent patron of the courthouse, so I don't know how feasible this is).

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Maybe the competition will help to enhance the project and lower the cost some. Personally I think that reopening the street is not going to be possible because the center of the designs so far go over the street. It will be neat to see what happens with the future design of the courthouse.

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Anything is possible, if the city allows it. You could easily go vertical and not use anymore than two of the seven blocks. You could make one large building, spanning over a street, similar to how the Tampa Convention Center spans Channelside Drive.

You could also build twin towers and connect them by using skywalks. Another option could be to build completely separate buildings, housing different functions and to spend a little money to make the streets between them more pedestrian friendly (ex. using pavers, narrowing lanes, landscaping, etc.).

I'm not too concerned about whether there's another design competition or not. I'm just happy that by starting over, the public has a chance to be vocal and get a much better courthouse, that fits in with its urban surroundings, for a cheaper price.

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Isn't Monroe Street one of the downtown exits on I-95? It kinda stinks, since motorists won't be able to drive down Monroe into the core. But even though the designs close the streets off for cars, I think pedestrians will be able to walk through the plazas, so it's still walkable. It's not one gigantic block of building in the middle of 4 blocks.

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Can Lakelander or anyone else for that matter, shed some light on how $27 million could have been spent on the courthouse, when no actual construction has been done? I realize many, many man hours go into the engineering and architecture plans. However, from the last that I read, the PLANS are only 50% complete. I do realize some utility and phones lines had to be relocated, and I assume that is included in that figure. But the $27mm figure just seems astronomical with so much design work still remaining, and no construction work started.

Any insight?

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My only guess is site clearing and sewer/pipes and stuff like that.  But I'm sure there's more than that.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I wasn't sure if site clearing was included in the $27mm or if that was included under the additional $25mm spent for land acqusition. I guess it could fall under either category. However it is accounted for, that would not be money that could be considered "thrown away" by going to a new design. I would think the same could be said for sewer. I wish the T-U or the business journal would publish a itemized list of the money spent thus far.

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