Commissioners Debate and Approve Change Order Credit for Partial Deletion of New Justice Center 5th Floor
An extensive discussion of Bucks County's new Justice Center and its 5th floor composition occupied the spotlight throughout the February 6 Business Meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners. Following lengthy remarks that included input from President Judge Susan D. Scott and county Director of Operations Jerry Anderson, Commissioners Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW voted to approve a pair of change orders involving partial deletion of the 5th floor of the new Bucks County Justice Center. Chairman Robert G. Loughery voted against the items, a $264,671 credit from general contractor Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. and a $27,000 credit from electrical contractor The Farfield Company.
Commissioner Martin explained his vote by noting his belief that it represents "a savings for current taxpayers." He noted that Bucks County currently has 13 Court of Common Pleas judges, and the revised Justice Center construction (with the change orders) will include 14 courtrooms and 72 meeting rooms. "That is certainly more than adequate," he stated, adding that Bucks County's recent rate of population growth has slowed substantially compared to previous decades.
Judge Scott represented court officials by asking several questions of the board, including clarification of cost savings figures. Chairman Loughery expressed his feelings about the change orders by noting: "I don't think it makes good sense to make this change. We need to think it through in a business sense." He added his belief that the infrastructure to complete the 5th floor build out will already be in place, including door frames, fixtures, bathrooms and heating/air conditioning systems.
According to Mr. Anderson, the change order will eliminate two courtrooms and 10 conference rooms - leaving the 5th floor with one family courtroom, four support conference rooms and two jury deliberation areas. "In a job this size, the builders immediately put out contracts (once the job is approved)," Mr. Anderson added.
In addition to the two change orders, the board approved 25 contract resolutions involving 12 county departments, although a two-year contract extension for Security Department uniforms was amended to six months in order to address the Cintas Corporation about the level of service it provides. Commissioner Marseglia voted against a pair of General Services items - a $36,356 contract with Ernest Bock & Sons for costs associated with winter concrete pouring at the new Justice Center construction site and a $72,743 (revenue item) lease amendment to increase the rate for the county rental property at 600 Louis Dr. in Warminster.
For the county's Open Space program, the board approved the county's $111,300 portion of a Natural Areas Program Grant with the Heritage Conservancy for the purchase of an 84-acre easement in Nockamixon Township. According to county Open Space coordinator Kris Kern, the property lies in a priority area near the Bucks County Horse Park and state game lands. It also borders previously preserved properties and is located within the federally designated Highlands Region.
There were no proclamations or commendations presented at the meeting, but county Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler reported that county officials are carefully monitoring Pennsylvania state budget developments involved with Governor Tom Corbett's Feb. 5 Budget Address. In addition, county officials are coordinating disaster funding meetings between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and individual municipalities over the next several days.
County Chief Clerk Lynn T. Bush reported on potential state transportation funding issues, which may include initiatives such as eliminating license plate registration stickers (Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that issues them) and creating longer drivers license renewal periods for drivers.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 20, 2013, in the Community Room (1st Floor) of the Bucks County Courthouse, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown, PA 18901. For a complete audio account of the February 6 meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the "Audio from Last Mtg" link on the home page.