Courthouse cost exceeded budget

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Increased costs associated with Charlotte County’s new courthouse continued to be discussed at a September meeting of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors.

In August, Skanska’s Project Manager Tim Burge revealed costs for the new courthouse exceeded the original $13.9 million budget by $125,000.

During that time, he said “during this process of the project, we’ve tried to manage the budget to the $13.9 million and we’ve came real close,” said Burge. “Some of the issues we’ve had is … some things that have come up … things that just come up whether it be something’s not working here or something’s not working there … different things that do come up during construction.”

During the September Supervisors meeting, a public hearing was held to consider adoption of the proposed amendment to the FY 2018- 19 Charlotte County budget.

The hearing was “for the purpose of amending FY 2018-19 County Budget for re-appropriation of previously unexpended appropriated funds for ongoing capital projects and local appropriated school operating funds,” said a notice regarding the hearing.

“You realize that when the project wasn’t completed by June 30 as we had to do last year, we had to have another public hearing to re-appropriate the money to be spent in this year,” said Chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Gary Walker previously.

During the hearing, Charlotte Court House resident Terry Ramsey provided comment.

“The transparency of the $125,000 cost overrun for courthouse construction is of concern as the Board of Supervisors has been repeatedly told the project was on budget with no cost issues,” said Ramsey.

He asked before the board appropriated the $125,000 in additional courthouse costs that a complete review of what Skanska has approved regarding courthouse changes be conducted.

Additionally, he said he did not believe Skanska was transparent in August when the public was cited as being the reason for $125,000 in additional courthouse costs.

In August, Burge said “back in the beginning of the design, and just before construction, during the design of the contract document (and) the construction documents phase … there was input from the county … from the people in the county where changes were made to the drawings as they were being completed …”

He said the changes resulted in about $40,000 in costs being added on the project.

Burge said after the project was bid, the public came back again with an architect requesting changes.

He said the post bid design changes were very expensive, totaling about $89,417.

Ramsey outlined several figures, stating he believed Skanska was the cause of the overrun, including $1,256.90 in charges for six microwaves and four coffee makers in August.

“If a project is going over budget, are these really necessities?” questioned Ramsey.

“So we’re paying more money to the courthouse (for) things that we didn’t approve that went into that courthouse?” asked Aspen/Phenix Supervisor Donna Fore.

Fore said she would not approve any additional courthouse funds.

“It was a fixed budget and if it went over budget, so sorry …” she said.

“I think there is a law that if we’ve incurred a debt, we have to pay it,” said Cullen/ Red House Supervisor Nancy Carwile.

Red Oak/Wylliesburg Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said the supervisors were told all along that the project was on budget until the end of the project.

“At this point … we somehow allowed this to slip through and we have to pay our bills …” she said.

“And when you spoke last month … those comments were totally, totally wrong,” she said to Burge.

Pierantoni said the comments blaming the citizens for the courthouse cost overage was wrong.

“The citizens are paying for that building and we work for the citizens,” said Pierantoni. She said the comments raised by the citizens were of value.

“From January 2017 to July 2018, you stood there and every month said we’re on budget …” said Pierantoni to Burge.

She said the completion date kept getting pushed back, but Burge always said the project was on budget.

She said Skanska is being paid over $500,000 for the project.

“It’s more than doubled what we went into this as,” Pierantoni said.

Burge said he explained last month that $538,000 was what it cost for the redesign of the building.

“Had we not had all those expenditures I would’ve not been coming back and asking for (added) costs,” he said.

Burge said the project was on budget in the beginning of August, however, the last few bills to come in pushed the project over budget.

“We are probably not going to spend that $125,000, but I didn’t want to come to the board and ask for money again in case we didn’t need it,” he said.

Burge said Skanska’s cost did go up, because when the project was originally bid two days per week were promised on the project.

He said the Board decided they wanted Skanska’s services full time and the cost went up.

Fore also said it was regrettable Burge blamed the public for the overage.

During the September Board of Supervisors meeting, Burge said Blair Construction is working on close out documents for the project, however, they did not have them yet and Blair is being assessed a liquidated damages fee of $250 per day to be taken from the contract.