After 15 years of consideration and discussions, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the award of a contract in the amount of $21,457,116 to Manhattan Construction for the renovation of the courthouse and judicial center. In June, the county approved a $9-million loan to apply to the construction bill.
Chief Judge Daniel B. Merritt, Jr is a member of the committee that has been negotiating the now final contract. According to Judge Merritt, a number of items were dropped due to the “strange economic time.”
The Purchasing and Contracts Department’s Bid Recommendation explains that prior to negotiations, Manhattan Construction’s bid was $24,633,884.00. The negotiation process took about six months.
In addition to Chief Judge Daniel B. Merritt, Jr, other committee members are; Todd Tuzzolino, Chief Deputy of Court Administration; Scott Herring, P.E., Director of Public Works; Jim Friedrichs, Building Official; and Erik van de Boogaard, Hernando County Construction Projects Coordinator.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers presented several artist’s renderings of the new Judicial Center, showing the entrance, which is at the rear of the historic building, one block east of Main Street. In addition to the modern glass-accented construction, the main walkway will be covered, several ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible features will be constructed or enhanced, and the “marathon hill” of the current parking lot will be flattened.
“This isn’t just about courtroom space, this is about serving the citizens too,” Rogers said.
Inside, the new facility will contain four new courtrooms and improved security features. The total time to completion according to the contract is 535 days.
Commissioner John Allocco asked Judge Merritt if the county would ever see a Night Court, where hearings on lesser offenses could be held. Merritt answered in the negative, stating, “I doubt that very seriously because I think the resources that we would have to devote to that, in conjunction with running court during the day… isn’t practical.” He added that the advent of remote platforms using audio-visual technology has replaced the need for expanded hours.