Author Topic: Mayor Peyton Takes Calls On Radio Show - Responds on Trail Ridge, Courthouse ...  (Read 2837 times)

stjr

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This morning, WJCT/NPR 89.9 ran a one hour call in show with Mayor Peyton.  Featured questions and discussion included Trail Ridge, the Courthouse, etc.  Kudos to the mayor for going before the firing lines and to WJCT for doing an excellent job setting up another great public affairs program.  The mayor got a lot of polite disagreement and hard edged questions not found coming from most of our media.

The mayor worked hard to make his case with listeners about going no-bid on Trail Ridge but it didn't seem he convinced most callers.   He also did a bit of ducking and dancing in answering some questions.  In defending why the courthouse didn't go vertical like the Federal courthouse, the mayor even claimed the courthouse was only 2 blocks in size (referring only to the core building which actually will knock out 4 blocks by itself* and disputing the entire 7 block complex documented by the city council auditor's report or acknowledging all those empty lots downtown cleared for the project!).  Then he added that the County courthouse would be close (using his exaggerated claim of it being 8 stories - its actually 7 per the City's own documents*) to the same height (he was counting the pediment on top to get to 188 feet* vs. the 278 foot 20 story federal courthouse with only 60% of the County's square feet) -totally skirting the point that this is not a high rise style structure for its 800,000 s.f.!!  Still not confronting the situation head-on which speaks volumes of why this project is a disaster.

Listen to the audio and enjoy.  A must for MetroJax adherents:

Part I:
http://www.wjct.org/mp3/weekly/fccmar5a.mp3 (intro and mostly Trail Ridge)
Part II: http://www.wjct.org/mp3/weekly/fccmar05b.mp3 (includes Trail Ridge, other questions, and courthouse question near the end)

* See the courthouse drawing, renderings, photos, and images at: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/962/122/
« Last Edit: March 06, 2009, 06:27:41 PM by stjr »
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

ProjectMaximus

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I would click on the audio links...but I just don't want to do that to myself. Too much pain...not tonight.

stjr

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Maximus, no problem.  But for those who have wanted to approach the mayor head on with direct, unvarnished questions, this was a good forum for seeing it happen.  Only problem was that the listeners apparently couldn't engage in a give and take to his responses like they do on some national NPR talk shows.  That might have reduced some of the ambiguous, innocuous, inaccurate or incomplete responses.  The WJCT reporter should have acted more as a moderator than add his own questions since they get to do that elsewhere. 

Still, overall,  a good effort to fill the void on public discussion not taking place in too many other places. We should be encouraging them to do more of this type of programming and our public officials to be stepping up to the line for it.
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

Lunican

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Peyton said the courthouse will take up only 2 blocks. (part 2 - 27:15) This is not true.

The building alone will consume 4 blocks due to a poor design.





« Last Edit: March 07, 2009, 12:55:16 PM by Lunican »

stjr

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Quote
Peyton said the courthouse will take up only 2 blocks. (part 2 - 27:15) This is not true.

The building alone will consume 4 blocks due to a poor design.

And, Lunican, if you count the blue blocks in your image plus the Historic Federal Court House shown which is going to hold the State Attorney's office (as conceded by the mayor on air), you have SEVEN city blocks committed to the County Courthouse functions.  Add the Public Defender to be housed in a portion of the Ed Ball building, not included in the blue blocks of the image, but also mentioned by the mayor on air, and we have SEVEN CITY BLOCKS PLUS!![/color]

The County Courthouse is 800,000 square feet and the Federal Courthouse, at 60% of this, only takes up ONE CITY BLOCK because it rises 20 stories giving it about a 24,000 square footprint vs. a footprint average of 114,000 with the County. If you assume all County Courthouse functions, exclusive of parking, were a generous 1,000,000 square feet, a 40 story building at 25,000 s.f. per floor would have done the trick and been a real boost to the City's skyline - not to mention likely far cheaper and nicer than the current messy plan.  [Using 800,000 s.f. to match the main building, we would be at 32 stories.]  Remember, they have and/or will spend tens of millions just moving utilities, etc. to close the streets.  This was all unnecessary with a one block design.
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« Last Edit: March 07, 2009, 08:48:09 PM by stjr »
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

thelakelander

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Wow.  What a way to twist a pretty good question regarding the courthouse.  Its too bad this was not a format that let the callers respond to the Mayor.  I'm still wondering what will happen with the last full block and the remaining two carved up ones.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

vicupstate

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I don't think a high-rise courthouse has ever been considered since day 1.  The judges don't want that, and killed it from the beginning, right or wrong.  It is also apples to oranges to compare the costs between a 40 story building to a 7 - 8 story one.  You save on land, but you spend on the massive foundation.  I don't know what the tradeoff is, but it wouldn't necessarily be in favor of high-rise construction.

It is too much to expect a one block courthouse, but I think a two block (including the ROW inbetween) would be doable.   A two-block 10-12 story building with the separate one block garage (already built) and the old Federal building would have given back two full blocks, plus the one that is already empty.

That would have been a good compromise IMO.   
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thelakelander

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The design group before KBJ took over had a 15 story building proposed.  Unfortunately, Auchter went up in smoke.  Excluding the inclusion of three parking garages, I wish KBJ could have dusted off their original plans.

Original KBJ Courthouse Design


Quote
Date of Analysis: April 13, 2007


Type of Action: Approval of multi-year project funding plan; authorization of special revenue bond issue; CIP amendment; authorization to engage design and construction professionals; extension of portions of, and repeal of portions of, prior ordinances; policy direction to maintain use of a city street


Bill Summary: The bill provides for a revised plan for financing and construction of a new approximately 15-story, $316 million county criminal and civil courthouse on the site previously prepared for that use on the western edge of downtown.  The bill approves a future $52.5 million special revenue bond issue to finance construction of the project in conjunction with existing Better Jacksonville Plan funds and other court-related funding sources. The bill amends the 2006-11 Capital Improvement Program to authorize priority 1 status for the elements and phases encompassed within the reconfigured “Duval County Courthouse Facilities Project” (see attached).  The bill authorizes the Mayor to engage consultants, design professionals, construction firms, and other professional assistance necessary to design and construct the new courthouse.   


The bill extends the appointment of the Courthouse Architectural Review Committee established via Ordinance 2004-1339-E to review and approve the design of the exterior of the facility.  The bill restricts the use of the funds to the uses specified in the attached Duval County Courthouse, provides that the Mayor may consider authorizing use of program contingency funds to address requests made by the Chief Judge for reasonable additions to the courthouse program, and provides for an appeals mechanism to the City Council should the Mayor deny a request of the Chief Judge costing $100,000 or more.  Finally, the bill declares that the courthouse location will not cause a permanent closure of Monroe Street.


Background Information: The project documentation proposes a courthouse of 15 stories, plus a penthouse and basement, encompassing a total of 611,000 square feet.  Of that amount, 509,000 sq. ft. would be finished initially and 102,000 would be left as empty shelled space.  The project also includes renovation of the old Federal Courthouse (205,560 sq. ft.) for use by the State Attorney and allocation of 60,000 sq. ft. in the Ed Ball Building to house the Public Defender’s Office.  The project, at completion, would house 29 criminal courtrooms, 15 civil courtrooms and 60 judicial offices.  Twenty-five criminal courtrooms, 11 civil courtrooms and 52 judicial offices would be completed in the initial construction phase.


Policy Impact Area: Courthouse construction


Fiscal Impact: The total project budget is approximately $316 million, of which $58.5 million has already been expended and $52.5 million of which would be provided by a bond issue in FY09-10.

citycirc.coj.net/docs/2007-0401%5CBill%20Summary/2007-0401.doc


Quote
Discarded courthouse restart cost city almost $1.2 million

Now the city is trying to negotiate a new contract with the second-ranked team from last year's selection, which includes Turner Construction Co. and KBJ Architects. But the companies will have to start mostly from scratch since the Auchter Perry-McCall specialized preliminary design plans are completely different from what the Turner and KBJ team is considering.

The Auchter Perry-McCall team's plans called for about a 15-story building on one block. Turner and KBJ has proposed a seven-story building on two blocks.

When the Auchter Perry-McCall plan was still under way, Peyton asked the council for $256 million for the first phase of the project, which would focus on a criminal courthouse. When additional phases were complete, the project would have cost about $390 million, not including the original $60 million already spent, city officials have said.

Turner and KBJ told the city in May that they could build a larger unified criminal and civil courthouse now, without the need for immediate additions, for $280 million. Laquidara said the city is working on a contract with the new team for a criminal courthouse only.

full article: www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/090407/met_196666851.shtml
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Lunican

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I find it hard to believe that Peyton is not familiar enough with the courthouse project to know how much land it is going to require. I think he was being completely disingenuous.

stjr

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Any extra costs to go vertical had to be far less than the approximate $4 million per extra square block for the land, the millions spent closing streets and moving utilities, the $27 million the Grand Jury says has been completely wasted, the $160 million in costs due to the years of delays for failure to get it right the first time, and the long term opportunity and operational costs of being spread out versus being concentrated.

The immediately following articles, all from the Florida T-U, say it all regarding the obvious RIGHT choice to go vertical as endorsed by the City's own City Council Auditor:
Quote
April 15, 2008

Shrink courthouse site?

By Mary Kelli Palka,
The Times-Union

A new Duval County courthouse should sit on only one or two blocks of land near LaVilla, freeing up three other blocks that could be sold to help offset the cost of the judicial complex, according to a report released Monday by the Jacksonville City Council Auditor's Office.

The audit was done at the request of a Duval County grand jury that last year reviewed city open meetings and contract issues. State Attorney Harry Shorstein said the current grand jury has only one more meeting, so he said he might review the audit with a new grand jury.

Mayor John Peyton is trying to get the City Council to approve $350 million for the courthouse complex, which includes $64.6 million already spent on previous plans, land costs and other expenses.

The current plans call for a seven-story building that sits mostly on two blocks but also uses space on two other blocks.

The city spent $23 million, which included legal fees, tenant relocation and other costs, on six blocks of land early in the project. The city received the seventh block, which houses the old federal courthouse, as part of a deal with the federal government.

The city could recoup some of its money by selling three blocks, which would put the land back on the tax roll. It would also give the city more money to help pay for the courthouse project.

Chief Administrative Officer Alan Mosley said, in a written response, a low-rise building could save the city about $600,000 a year in operating costs. He said other cities often build taller buildings because they are constrained by land space or they are considering their skylines. He said the city also wants to keep the Clerk of Court functions on one floor, making it easier to access by the public.

The audit also suggested the city use less expensive finishes for the courthouse. Mosley said the finishes haven't been determined.

Much of the audit was about the history of the courthouse project, including issues that have been hashed out publicly for the past few years. Shorstein said he thought the auditor's findings were "stinging."
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/041508/met_268359789.shtml

Quote
Jacksonville wasted nearly $27 million on a courthouse that hasn't been built but there was no criminal wrongdoing, a Duval County grand jury found after seven months of investigation.

The sealed grand jury report, obtained Tuesday by the Times-Union, calls the much-maligned project a debacle and disgrace and says taxpayers have a right to be upset that they have nothing to show for the $64.6 million already spent on the nonexistent courthouse....A new courthouse was first approved by voters under the Better Jacksonville Plan in 2000 at a projected cost of $190 million. The cost quickly skyrocketed to the current price tag of $350 million.
http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-01-14/story/grand_jury_duval_county_taxpayers

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About a third of the money spent so far on the courthouse, $23.1 million, was used to acquire land in LaVilla to replace the poorly aging building on Bay Street.
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/080408/met_313132652.shtml

Ron Littlepage in September, 2003!:
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For instance, because the courthouse will take up seven downtown blocks, streets will be closed. Because of that, underground utilities will have to be moved and that won't be cheap, which has sparked a legal fight between Southern Bell and the city over who pays to move the company's fiber optic cables.

Any additional cost coming from that would have to be figured into the courthouse's final price, as should the subsidies that will be required from the city for the courthouse's parking garage.

Then there's this question: Did demands from the judges drive the courthouse cost into the stratosphere?

Folks, already fuming over the courthouse, were further riled this week when the new federal courthouse downtown was officially unveiled for the media.

It cost $84 million. As designed now, the new county courthouse would be 2 1/2 times larger than the federal courthouse. But do the math. The federal courthouse could have been built to that size for $210 million.


Plus throw in the fact that building a federal courthouse is more expensive. For one thing, after the Oklahoma City bombing, a federal courthouse has to be blast proof while a county courthouse doesn't. And for some crazy reason the courtroom ceilings have to be higher.
  http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/091803/opl_13559068.shtml?jump=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.newsjobs.com%2F&IMAGE.x=0&IMAGE.y=0
« Last Edit: March 08, 2009, 12:54:21 PM by stjr »
Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!

brainstormer

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Chief Administrative Officer Alan Mosley said, in a written response, a low-rise building could save the city about $600,000 a year in operating costs. He said other cities often build taller buildings because they are constrained by land space or they are considering their skylines. He said the city also wants to keep the Clerk of Court functions on one floor, making it easier to access by the public.

The audit also suggested the city use less expensive finishes for the courthouse. Mosley said the finishes haven't been determined.

And Mosley gives another typical PR defense of this administration.  My questions for him...
Why would we not consider our skyline?
So just because we have failed to invest in building downtown like other cities, we should take up as much land as possible?
How does 600,000 in operating costs compare to the amount of tax revenue and economic growth private high rises and office towers would have on our city by giving up 3 blocks of the current low-rise design?
Do you really think having the clerk of court spread over two city blocks is going to be easier for the public to access?  My grandma is still going to walk in and be completely overwhelmed...plus that long walk to the other side of the building with her walker!  Perhaps we should install moving sidewalks like the new airport terminal.  I mean come on.  What a dumb excuse for not building vertical.
Why haven't the finishes been determined?  It seems to me like the finishes on a building this massive are going to affect the price tag.  Shouldn't we be making those decisions already?

I agree stjr...what happened to common sense!!  This whole thing blows my mind!  Then again, I suppose I could be the crazy one.

stjr

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Quote
And Mosley gives another typical PR defense of this administration.  My questions for him...
Why would we not consider our skyline?
So just because we have failed to invest in building downtown like other cities, we should take up as much land as possible?
How does 600,000 in operating costs compare to the amount of tax revenue and economic growth private high rises and office towers would have on our city by giving up 3 blocks of the current low-rise design?
Do you really think having the clerk of court spread over two city blocks is going to be easier for the public to access?  My grandma is still going to walk in and be completely overwhelmed...plus that long walk to the other side of the building with her walker!  Perhaps we should install moving sidewalks like the new airport terminal.  I mean come on.  What a dumb excuse for not building vertical.

Ask the City to document the $600,000 estimate under the open records law.  If the City produces a shred of paper, I would be surprised.  And, if we could see such a paper, I would bet the assumptions made to produce the estimate were woefully thought out, inadequate, or poorly investigated and/or constructed to reverse engineer to a predetermined answer (i.e. back fill justification of the current decision).


From the quote in Lake's post:
Quote
The bill restricts the use of the funds to the uses specified in the attached Duval County Courthouse, provides that the Mayor may consider authorizing use of program contingency funds to address requests made by the Chief Judge for reasonable additions to the courthouse program, and provides for an appeals mechanism to the City Council should the Mayor deny a request of the Chief Judge costing $100,000 or more.

I think this is the ROOT of the problem:  Letting the inmates run the insane asylum.  Who in their right mind would allow lawyers, especially entrenched and politically insulated judges, with no construction skills or appreciation for what it costs to build, to have veto power or undue influence over the design and/or control of this project?  This courthouse will serve as a monument to the perceived arrogance, callousness, superiority, and egotistical values of their profession and this is what gives lawyers a major public relations issue of being seen as one of the most despised professions around (not that their aren't nice lawyers, just disproportionately too many not-so-nice  8)).

Remember, the beginning of the courthouse project can be traced to lawyer-mayors John Delaney and Ed Austin.  And, look at the influence of other lawyers in the political process, such as Paul Hardin.  Need I say more?

It will also serve, in ways Mayor Peyton does not yet grasp, as a 50 to 100 year monument to the incompetence of his administration to get this project right and will serve for his entire life as a blight on his resume.  The mayor should swallow his pride and convert this to a vertical project.  He will come under the current accepted budget and serve the future of Jacksonville far better. Getting it right is far more important than pride or meeting some self-imposed deadline.
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Hey!  Whatever happened to just plain ol' COMMON SENSE!!