Although construction may be almost done and the scheduled opening date is fast approaching, the battle over the new Duval County Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville is far from over.
In the latest chapter of dissent over funding, chief judge Donald Moran laid into the mayor's administration at a meeting with the city council committee that oversees the courthouse and the state attorney's office on Monday, saying that the lack of communication from Mayor Brown's administration has been really detrimental to progress.
"I've dealt with Mayor [John] Peyton and [John] Delaney on this project and while they may have been difficult at least there was some communication."
Moran is concerned with the mayor's recent decision to cut $1 million from courthouse furniture funding. The city says it plans to use furniture from the old courthouse instead and has cut out other features that Moran says are crucial to maximum functionality of each hearing room.
"They cut out audio/visual, microphones for the courtrooms, all kinds of things which are required by law. The ADA requires it."
The state attorney's office backed Moran in saying the courtrooms and judges' chambers need to have the furniture spending restored for the sake of the citizens who will use the courtrooms in trials and hearings.
Public defender Matt Shirk says this whole ordeal has gone on long enough for the taxpayer, and he just wants to see the best resolution for them because the price tag on the courthouse has already skyrocketed way beyond what taxpayers originally expected.
"If we're only talking about furniture on one floor, at this point, after $350 million, let's get it done and get this thing open."
Shirk says there's no doubt the furniture in the current courthouse is old, and he wonders whether it will survive the move to the new building, but says ultimately this is about resolving the conflict in the best interest of the taxpayers.
The new courthouse is scheduled to open May 29th, but the mayor's office has said it would be willing to push the opening back if it meant it would save the city money.