JACKSONVILLE — The City Council on Monday took a first look at new plans for a project to build a courtroom, a jail and police and fire department headquarters.
The latest drawings depict a condensed plan, bringing the total number of square feet down to 46,769 from 54,400, said David Oliver of McElrath and Oliver Architects in Gadsden. Oliver spent almost two hours presenting the firm's drawings to council members and city officials, who said the plan provides the features Jacksonville needs at a price it can afford.
"They've cut it to the bare bones," said Stan Batey, a project manager hired by the city. "They have gone over and above what you guys wanted them to do."
In May 2013, the city borrowed $14 million for building projects, including the public safety complex and possibly a new City Hall. It then hired Florida-based Architects Design Group Inc. to draw designs for the plans. When cost estimates based on that firm's drawing twice came in over budget, the city hired the Gadsden-based firm to do the work.
Formal estimates based on drawings from Architects Design Group came in at $14.1 million and $17.2 million. Based on an informal cost estimate from McElrath and Oliver, the cost to build the project will now be $8.9 million.
McElrath and Oliver has since been working with city officials to design the building, and the Monday meeting was the first time it was presented to them in person.
The plans for the fire department include space for eight one-man dorm rooms, and five enclosed bays for vehicles and training rooms. The police department plans include interview rooms, a fortified dispatch area and a garage for confiscated cars.
The courtroom would seat 230 people and double as a community storm shelter capable of holding 600 during emergencies.
The jail will include an enclosed garage to make it easier to take suspects inside the building from police vehicles. It will include space for food preparation, laundry and a room to store inmates’ personal property. It also will include 10 two-occupant jail cells for men as well as three two-person cells for women. It will be designed so the city can add cells if needed.
After presenting the plan, Oliver asked officials and council members to provide input and recommend changes before the plans are finalized.
"There is a lot to weigh here and we just want you to have the facts in front of you so you can make a decision," Oliver said. "Right now there is a lot of refinement that needs to be done."
The police and fire chiefs and the court clerk said the plans were adequate to meet their needs. Council President Mark Jones said the plans provide the features he’d hoped for but that the price was still a little higher than he’d hoped it would be.
"If it goes any direction, it goes lower," Jones said of the cost.
Oliver agreed to continue seeking ways to cut costs. The city agreed to select a small group, comprised of Batey, Mayor Johnny Smith and City Manager Jarrod Simmons to help the architects fine-tune the plan.
Any major decisions, Jones said, would go through the council. Architects said they expect to have the plans finalized by October and that the city can expect to begin receiving construction bids by November.