Yet another delay in the Duval County Courthouse already years overdue.
The building has not yet gained occupancy certification because of problems which surfaced during fire and safety inspections. Duval County Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt says construction must be complete, down to the last doorstop, before testing like this can be conducted, so it is not unusual to see a problem so late in the game.
What is concerning for Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg is how this may further delay the courthouse’s scheduled opening next Tuesday.
“We’re talking about people’s lives and a huge building and we need to know exactly what they need to do and what needs to be done,” Schellenberg says.
Incoming City Council President Bill Bishop says his patience on the project is worn thin. He finds it difficult to believe this problem could have surfaced overnight.
“The thing [courthouse project] has been run very poorly. There has been very little if any oversight on it,” he says.
Both councilmen agree that fixing the problem falls squarely on the contractors and subcontractors assigned to this project, and the city will make sure any additional cost falls on those parties. Bishop adds, however, that now is not the time to sort out blame.
“It’s not gunna do any good right now to sit around and blame people and go in to all that stuff today because none of that helps get the problem solved.”
One possible cost which may come up is moving operations back to the old courthouse location on Bay Street. While there is no formal plan in place yet, Schellenberg says court operations need to get running, and that may mean moving back.
“Now, we’ve got to figure out an answer- how to communicate all that we’re doing to all the people in the project,” he says.
It’s an especially big problem considering the number of workers affected by the move. Factor in this weekend’s Memorial Day holiday and Schellenberg says the city is still facing a long road.
Neither Schellenberg nor Bishop would speculate how long it would take the courthouse to open if the deadline is missed.
“All 19 City Councilmen, and I’m pretty sure the administration, is gunna stay on top of this until that courthouse is up and running smoothly,” Schellenberg says.
Overnight, Turner Construction will be once again testing the fire safety system in a process that could take up to 8 hours. Senterfitt says the results of the test will be a big deciding factor in figuring out the timeline moving forward. He says he needs an all-clear from engineers before allowing any occupancy in the building.