Public Works Scrutinizes How to House City Offices; Goal to Get Government Offices off Riverfront and out of Leased Space

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA, The Times-Union

Plans are on hold to build two facilities to process permits and house court documents on the outskirts of Jacksonville's downtown.

Also, decisions for how to use the vacant but city-owned Haverty's building next to City Hall and the Ed Ball building on Hogan Street, which the city is hoping to buy, have yet to be made.

And the future look, and size, of a new county courthouse hasn't been determined, though that decision could come soon.

All are issues the city's Public Works department is studying, with an ultimate goal to get city offices off the riverfront, which means getting workers out of the aging City Hall Annex and Duval County Courthouse. The city is also working toward getting city workers out of costly leased space.

The study will look at how to reorganize almost all city offices including those in City Hall, located in the renovated St. James building on West Duval Street.

The only city operations not being considered are the Mayor's Office, the City Council and the General Counsel's Office, said Bob Williams, the city's real estate officer.

New permitting and court documents facilities were supposed to be built on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and ready for use this year. At least, that's what a Peyton spokeswoman told the Times-Union in July 2003.

The idea for a one-stop permitting building, developed during former Mayor John Delaney's administration, was intended to alleviate parking problems for people who competed for spaces outside the City Hall Annex, where the permitting staff now works.

But Public Works Director Alan Mosley said the move would separate the permitting and planning departments, and officials are looking to see if it's better to keep the two departments in close proximity.

The permitting facility's budget is about $7.3 million, with most of that coming from a building inspection special revenue fund and the rest coming from the issuance of bonds in 2002. The court documents building budget is $5.3 million, from the same 2002 bond issue.

About $3 million has been spent on land and design costs for the two projects so far, according to city records. Mosley said it's still possible the buildings will be constructed.

If the permitting staff doesn't move to a new building, it could move to the Ed Ball building. The council Finance Committee approved the purchase of the building Monday. …