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Courthouse renovation costs continue to rise

July 24, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN

Renovation delays at the Washington County Courthouse will cost the county at least another $500,000 before the project is completed, according to Washington County Director of Special Projects Gary Rohrer.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a transfer of $535,141 from the capital budget to cover the cost of delays in the project.

Rohrer said the engineering department's latest request for money likely will not be its last before the project's expected completion in February 2008.

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"At this point, I'm not going to ask for money to cover a big contingency cost. We'll come back later if we have to," Rohrer said.

Since the project began in September 2004, it has been delayed more than 18 months and has gone more than $2 million over its original $4.62 million budget.

The delays have been caused by a variety of issues, including asbestos that was jarred loose during construction, safety inspections and construction of a prisoner elevator prompted by a deadly shooting in an Atlanta courthouse, and a seven-month wait for Verizon to repair telephone and fiber optic cables that were struck by contractors working in the alley adjacent to the courthouse.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he was most concerned about the delays caused by Verizon. He cited similar delays by the company during the airport runway project and Maugans Avenue expansion.

"It's a constant problem," said Kercheval, who suggested the county put pressure on Verizon to respond more quickly to county requests.

But while the commissioners expressed frustration over the project's delays and rising cost, most said they would not withold funds.

"I don't think we have an option. We just have to finish this thing," Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said. The commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the additional funding. Only Commissioner William J. Wivell voted against the transfer. President John F. Barr abstained from voting because his company, Ellsworth Electric Inc., is a subcontractor on the project.

The commissioners also approved two change orders for the project. The first cost of $28,553 covers repairs to the west wall of the Orphans Court. The second cost of $104,639 pays the general contractor for relocating a storm drain and sewer line that would have interfered with the construction of a prisoner access ramp into the basement detention area.

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