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Firm gets go-ahead for old courthouse work
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Effingham County commissioners have given the go-ahead to a group for the renovations at the historic Effingham Courthouse.

Commissioners approved the contract for J.T. Turner Construction, Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung and Greenline Architects for the design-build concept. The time to complete the work is 365 days from the notice to proceed, and the contract is set at a maximum of $3.2 million.

Commissioners opted to go with design-build, giving the responsibility to draw up the work and complete it to one group.

“It puts the owner and the design team face to face and it eliminates the adversarial relationship between the architect and the contractor,” county project manager Adam Kobek said. “That’s one of the biggest things we sought to eliminate in choosing this method.”

Kobek said he learned quite a bit from the problems with the construction of the new justice complex, particularly method of delivery and adherence to schedule. The design-build package should address those issues, he told commissioners.

“Several times we found ourselves in a disagreement between the architect and the contractors that didn’t involve us at all,” he said. “But when the hat got passed around, it was the county who was expected to pay for the changes.”

He also assured commissioners there will be no late payments.

“It’s easier to complain to somebody in Springfield that you can get on the phone than it is to complain to a surety company in New Jersey that has not mailed a client a check,” Kobek said. “In the past, what’s happened is a subcontractor has come to us and your prime contractor has not paid us. In this contract, we authorize our own payments.”

The project was part of the special local option sales tax approved by voters, but resident Steve Collins questioned commissioners if that money couldn’t be spent better elsewhere.

“I would very much like to see the old courthouse taken care of,” he said. “I’m just not sure this is the appropriate time to do it. I want to be sure we’re spending money where it needs to be spent.”

Commissioner Reggie Loper, who served on the ad hoc committee that reviewed the courthouse renovation proposals, said the money will be spent.
“It will not sit there and just be pretty,” he said.

Currently, the old courthouse is home to the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s offices in Effingham. Commissioners have yet to decide which, if any, other county departments will move into the old courthouse once it’s refurbished.

They also worried that the longer the county does nothing, the worse off the historic building will be.

“As long as the courthouse sits there, it’s going to deteriorate,” Commissioner Verna Phillips said. “We have looked at this for quite some time. We have looked at all these items.”

Commissioners tabled making the old courthouse LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Kobek said he will provide commissioners with more definite numbers on what it will take for LEED certification.

“I think LEED is very important,” he said.