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Court proposal selected

September 22, 2011 12:16 am

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The First Choice site is located at the corner of Princess Anne and Charlotte streets in downtown Fredericksburg.

BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY

Fredericksburg's new courthouse facilities will be built by the design-build team of First Choice Public-Private Partners.

City Manager Beverly Cameron announced yesterday that First Choice ranked higher than W.M. Jordan and Donley's design-build firms.

The 78,500-square-foot courthouse will be built at 701-707 Princess Anne St., where the current juvenile and domestic relations court is housed.

It will house the circuit court and clerk, the general district court and clerk, and the Sheriff's Office.

The existing General District Court Building--across Charlotte Street from the new site--will be renovated to house the juvenile court and auxiliary court service functions.

Cameron declined to say what the cost would be for the proposal.

But Mayor Tom Tomzak said it will be less expensive than the original cost of $36 million proposed by First Choice.

The cost is one of the main issues that will be worked out within the next few weeks.

Using the state's Public Private Partnership Act, the city initially received eight proposals, and narrowed it to five, then to three over the last several months.

In a closed work session Tuesday night, the council ranked the last three options based on seven criteria.

Yesterday, before making the announcement, Cameron notified each of the principals of the city's decision.

"Obviously we're thrilled and very excited about being selected and look forward to doing the project," said Raymond Booth, the special-projects manager for English Construction.

Cameron said First Choice ranked at the top of the list, based on factors including overall project benefit, design, location, team, cost, phasing and disruption, and schedule.

Next, city staff will work with First Choice to come up with a comprehensive agreement. Cameron said he expects that to take several weeks. When that's agreed on, City Council has to approve it.

First Choice's team is made up of English Construction Co., Moseley Architects and Glave & Holmes Architecture.

First Choice has worked with the city in the past to build James Monroe High School, Lafayette Upper Elementary School and the police headquarters.

Members of City Council had mixed feelings about the design selected.

Tomzak said he thought they picked the one that best met the needs of the city.

The council will have to approve how the courthouse is financed.

Council member Brad Ellis said he didn't agree with the proposal chosen.

"I felt that the way the rankings fell out, that the best solution was not chosen, in my opinion," Ellis said.

Last week, before City Council went into closed session to discuss the courts, Ellis remarked that there would be plenty of time for the public to comment and ask questions about the proposals.

After the most recent session, however, he said he felt the process went too fast.

"We were going to receive input on the whole process, on all three," he said. "In my opinion, that should be a factor. We should take that in as part of the overall evaluation, not just walk out like we did last night," he said.

The public will have a chance to hear more once a contract is signed.

"In my opinion, that's a little too late to get feedback on each of the designs, if we've chosen one," he said.

Councilman Fred Howe III said that four of the council members were in agreement on the proposal chosen. He abstained from voting and said he has chosen not to participate in the process since the proposals were narrowed to three.

He said he doesn't think the proposals meet the PPEA proposal and can't support the project because the city doesn't have the money for it.

The next step is for city staff to evaluate the cost of the project and present something to City Council for approval.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413
Email: rsidersky@freelancestar.com





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