Delays add millions to Augusta Municipal Building remodeling

Delays associated with a planned $18 million remodeling job at the Augusta Municipal Building have driven the cost up by between $5 million and $6 million, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.

Russell, who revealed the news at a Monday commission committee meeting, said a lawsuit filed last year over the city’s selection of a construction manager had added $3 million to the cost, with the rest taken up by construction costs that have risen over time.

Remodeling the half-century old building initially awaited the move of Richmond County judges, clerk of courts, prosecutors and other legal staff into the Augusta Judicial Building and John H Ruffin Jr. courthouse after it was completed in the spring of 2011.

Just as the legal personnel were moving out, the city was hit with a lawsuit filed by John Z. Speer and the Augusta-Richmond County Property Owners Association, alleging unfairness in the city’s award of a $1.3 million bid to Turner Construction Co. to serve as construction manager at risk for the sales-tax-funded project.

Based on the suit, Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet issued an injunction preventing the project from moving forward. After the city amended its code to allow the use of construction managers at risk and provided a written justification for not using competitive sealed bids, Overstreet lifted the injunction.

Also adding to the expense are the larger-than-anticipated costs of getting the building up to modern fire safety codes and compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Russell said.

The three half-century-old elevator shafts, for instance, are about three inches too small to accommodate the slightly larger elevator cars required under the law, he said.

Originally presented as a $14 million project included in the special-purpose, local-option sales tax package VI approved by voters in 2009, the project currently has about $19 million in available funds, Russell said.

Russell said he’d been working to fit the project into its budget for a month with no success and would return with a “revised plan” at an upcoming meeting.

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