Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peyton Can Still Seize the Day on the New Courthouse

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peyton Can Still Seize the Day on the New Courthouse

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

As the debate over the cost of the new county courthouse grows more contentious, a point needs to be made.

This is no longer John Delaney's courthouse. The courthouse, and the ridiculous price tag attached to it, now belongs to Mayor John Peyton.

Peyton is the one who can get the project back under control. He's the one who can deliver what the voters agreed to when they approved Delaney's Better Jacksonville Plan -- a courthouse for $190 million.

So far, Peyton has fallen short.

Peyton says that when he took office in July, he was told that the cost of the courthouse had ballooned to a mind-boggling $282 million.

He made adjustments and cuts to bring the price tag down to $232 million -- a figure he guaranteed would go no higher.

That's a step in the right direction, but it's still a taxpayer rip-off.

For instance, the taxpayers were promised a courthouse with at least 43 courtrooms.

As it stands now, the courthouse would only have 33 courtrooms. Ten others would just be shells that would be completed later.

In reality, that's not cutting costs. That's just delaying the payment taxpayers will have to make.

There are myriad other questions about how the cost of the courthouse exploded.

It's clear from reading the rules of the design competition the city used to pick an architect that Cannon Design shouldn't have been awarded the courthouse project to begin with.

Those rules were very specific.

Among other things, the hard cost of construction was not to exceed $162.5 million and the courthouse was to have about 896,000 square feet.

The Cannon design has 1,176,000 square feet and many of the details needed to determine the cost per square foot were not included in the Cannon package.

Even without those details, Jacobs Facilities, which is getting $10. …

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