Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prime Osborn Could Be an Answer to Courthouse Mess

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prime Osborn Could Be an Answer to Courthouse Mess

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

The temptation is to revel in some good old fashioned judge bashing and previous mayor bashing with a little current mayor bashing thrown in.

The new county courthouse mess is that messy and it gets messier every day.

But we've got a real problem on our hands, and bashing folks won't solve it.

The price tag on the table to build a complete courthouse to handle both civil and criminal courts stands at $320 million today.

And we all know what happens to today's price tags when tomorrow's roll around.

A couple of options for building a new criminal court now and a new civil court later would cost even more: $330 million.

We've come a long way, baby, from the $190 million cost that was promised voters in the Better Jacksonville Plan.

We're even way north of the $300 million cost estimate that caused Mayor John Peyton to pull the plug last year on the original design.

What to do?

It was clear during meetings this week with the courthouse user group that is advising Peyton on the courthouse and a special City Council committee that some in the Mayor's Office had favored building the courthouse in phases.

The first phase -- the criminal court -- was projected to cost $138.6 million. That would fit within the $201 million the Mayor's Office says is available to spend on the courthouse.

It was just as clear that the judges wanted to build the complete courthouse all at once. The projected cost for that is $262 million.

(Don't forget that $58 million has already been spent on the project, which is where the higher budget numbers come from.)

The judges and some City Council members also want to explore the possibility of using a lease/purchase plan where a private developer would build the courthouse to see if that would be financially feasible.

The Mayor's Office says that approach would make the courthouse cost even more and the city isn't going to be in the business of paying profits to a private developer. …

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