Jacksonville officials disappointed by second cost estimate for public safety complex
by Laura Gaddy
Feb 05, 2014 | 4725 views |  0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officials planning a new Jacksonville public safety and courtroom complex encountered a financial snafu this week.

The city received a construction estimate of $16.5 million Monday, but has $14 million to pay for the entire project, including construction, architectural fees and other development expenses. Mayor Johnny Smith said officials had expected the construction estimate to be between $11 million and $12 million.

“I was stunned,” Mayor Johnny Smith said. “I thought for sure we were going to be in really good shape.”

The figure is the second higher-than-expected cost estimate city leaders have received for the project. The first, issued in June, was from an out-of-state company hired by the architect, and it projected the cost at about $17.5 million.

The second was completed by W.B. Rittenour Estimating Service out of Montgomery, Smith said.

After receiving the first estimate, officials cut design elements to reduce the cost of the planned complex, which will house the police department, the fire station and a courtroom that will double as a community shelter. Officials eliminated a second story of jail cells planned for the project and reduced the amount of shatter-resistant glass planned for the building. The city also cut plans to move city hall to the complex.

Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson said he thought that eliminating the second story of the jail — which would have included about 10 cells — would have reduced the cost of the project by $1 million.

“We are all shocked,” Thompson said, of the second cost estimate. “We just can’t believe it.”

Project Manager Stan Batey was hired to help the city develop the Jacksonville project last year. Officials said he and the city’s architect, Architects Design Group, a Florida-based company, are evaluating the estimates to see why the second one is $16.5 million.

“There is not an easy answer,” Batey said.

Smith said it is not immediately clear what steps the city should take now with the project.

He said the city could find a new architect and start the project over from scratch, move forward to bid the project to find out how much contractors would charge to build it according to the current plan, or try to make more cuts before moving forward. But, for now, he said, officials are in limbo.

“We’re kind of in a standstill,” Smith said.

The council’s next meeting will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, and members will hold an informal work session at 6 p.m.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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