Fredericksburg Courthouse Project At Milestone Review Mark
City Council is at a milestone mark with its $36.6 million courthouse project and some significant changes could be recommended at a work session Tuesday night. One change to consider is having a two-story Circuit Court instead of three stories.
Fredericksburg City Council is at a point in the new courthouse project where members can commit to the plans or make changes, but a decision is expected by Aug. 1.
If City Council cannot agree on the design by Aug. 1 or it requests significant changes to the project, then it either has to get agreement from the design-build team First Choice for a time extension or the city can issue a 60-day stop-work order on the project.
City Council will have a special work session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall to review the project and discuss options for design changes. According to a memo to council members from City Attorney Kathleen Dooley (attached as PDF to article), First Choice has submitted its 35-percent design documents for review and approval on June 1. First Choice was chosen for the contract on Nov. 3, 2011, through the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002.
City Council is required to review the design at the 10 percent, 35 percent, 65 percent, 95 percent and 100 percent stages to make any corrections or comments. Dooley said the 35 percent design stage is significant because it triggers City Council's option to perform a value engineering study prior to accepting the design and it also freezes the design until City Council finishes its review. Dooley said the contract requires First Choice to participate in any such value engineering study by submitting documentation and calculations as needed, and by attending a study wrap-up session to comment on any proposed changes.
During Tuesday's work session, council members will see the following design options and cost models:
- Two-story Circuit Court building (with basement) in lieu of three-story
- Minor renovation to the General District Court building in lieu of major renovation
- One unfinished courtroom in the current design of the new courthouse
- Break out Circuit Court records and archives records space
- Alternative footprint and exterior elevation for the design
- Convert fourth courtroom to J&DR Court use, consolidating all three courts in one building
This review stage wasn't scheduled to happen until August, according to the comprehensive agreement between City Council and First Choice. The agreement gives City Council 14 days to review the plans, but because First Choice completed the 35 percent stage on June 1, the city and First Choice mutually agreed to finish the review by Aug. 1, Dooley said.
The timing to complete the review is interesting because it's one month past the date when a new majority forms on City Council in July when councilman-elect Matt Kelly takes office. Kelly, along with council members Fred Howe, Bea Paolucci and Brad Ellis have already stated that they want to make changes to the courthouse design.
The comprehensive agreement between City Council and First Choice includes penalties if First Choice does not finish each step, and the project, on time. Dooley cautioned that City Council should "consider the old saying, 'time is money,' and commit to moving expeditiously with its project review." The entire project is projected to be finished by late 2014 or early 2015.
Dooley's memo states that City Council can order a change to the project but First Choice may require an adjustment in the contract price.
"So changes in the project are a matter of negotiation between the City and First Choice," she said. "The cost implications will be a matter of how much additional design work is needed, and how the construction costs are impacted by the changes."
Dooley said once the 35 percent design is approved, First Choice moves ahead to prepare 65 percent of the drawings, which she said will form the basis of the guaranteed maximum price.
The city already issued $36.7 million in bonds for the project, and the work includes:
- Design new court facilities.
- Renovate Executive Plaza first floor for temporary occupancy by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
- Demolish the existing structures at the corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets.
- Construct the new courthouse at corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets.
- Move the Circuit Court and General District Court to the new courthouse.
- Renovate the General District Courthouse Move the J&DR Court to the renovated former General District Courthouse.
The cost of the above is limited at $31.8 million but the amount will be refined during the design phase and a guaranteed maximum price will be established when the design is 65 percent finished, Dooley's memo states. First Choice has completed the work at Executive Plaza and the J&DR Court was expected to make its temporary move there on Monday.
The city has already purchased 707 Princess Anne St. for demolition. Dooley's memo states that Bill Downey of Downey & Scott was hired as the construction manager and a LEED Commissioning agent is under contract. The land acquisition is complete and demolition planning—including utility relocation and the acquisition of temporary construction easements—is underway.