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Courthouse: Fired designer pleads case

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By MATT GALNOR and MARY KELLI PALKA

The Times-Union

The architectural firm Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton fired last week is offering to finish designs on the new Duval County Courthouse, saying the project still can be done for the $267.9 million Peyton wanted.

Cannon Design officials say their cost estimators believe the project can be brought in on budget and estimates filed with the city by the construction manager are wrongly inflated.

Peyton isn't interested.

The mayor, who inherited the courthouse project when he took office in July 2003, said last week he had lost confidence in Cannon, and his staff said Thursday he wasn't interested in Cannon's offer.

The city still will start from scratch on a new courthouse, spokeswoman Susie Wiles said.

Last week, Peyton fired both Cannon and Skanska Dynamic Partners, the construction firm on the courthouse, after months of grappling with an overbudget project. Skanska delivered its guaranteed maximum price last week -- more than $26 million over budget -- and both companies were fired the same day.

But Cannon says its own cost estimators say it can be done cheaper.

"We believe in our work and we believe we should put our money where our mouth is," said Gary Miller, Cannon's chief executive officer.

"Where were all these promises before we got to this point?" City Council President Elaine Brown asked.

Skanska said last week, and reaffirmed Thursday, that it did everything possible to bring the project in at budget.

The courthouse budget was $190 million when voters approved the Better Jacksonville Plan with a half-cent sales tax increase in 2000. Former Mayor John Delaney used contingency dollars to bump the budget to $211 million, and last year Peyton and the council increased the budget to $232 million.

In September, Peyton said the budget would need to be increased to $267.9 million for a building that would meet the city's future needs, but he pulled the plug last week when newer estimates crept toward $300 million.

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

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

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17111709.shtml.

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Nice Try, Cannon. I can't wait to see what we get next, although I think another design competition will take too much time. We all know who should be chosen, and I'm sure they were a close second in the last competition.

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I agree about the KBJ design.

However, the only thing I would change if I could is the orientation of the main building (I'd rotate it 90 degrees). I'd rather see Clay St. closed than Monroe St. By doing this, Clay (between Duval and Monroe) could be the only Street in the entire complex that would have to be closed.

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I agree about the KBJ design.

However, the only thing I would change if I could is the orientation of the main building (I'd rotate it 90 degrees).  I'd rather see Clay St. closed than Monroe St.  By doing this, Clay (between Duval and Monroe) could be the only Street in the entire complex that would have to be closed.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I completely agree. Traffic flow is crucial in any downtown.

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This is another good thing with scrapping the Cannon design. This gives the city and the public a second chance to get everything right, as well as at a lower cost.

Fitting this massive complex into the existing street grid and built environment should be a major factor in the whatever new design is chosen.

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