Control: Public Safety & Animal Services Committee
File Name: UPDATE ON THE NEW CHILDREN’S JUSTICE CENTER
Agenda Item Number:
UPDATE ON THE NEW CHILDREN’S JUSTICE CENTER
Sally A. Heyman, Prime Sponsor
Public Safety & Animal Services Committee
Assistant County Attorney Gerald Sanchez read the foregoing discussion item into the record.
Mr. Lester Sola, Internal Services Department Director provided a brief summary on the status of the construction of the Children’s Justice Center. He noted the County Commission approved the scope of work and the nearly four-acre site for the facility in 2001. Mr. Sola announced that the facility would be a 14-Floor structure, consisting of 18 courtrooms and over 300,000 square feet usable space versus the former building that was built in the 1970s with only ten courtrooms. He stated that the budget for this project was approximately $140 million, that construction was 74 percent completed with full completion anticipated by the end of this year (2013); and that full utilization and a grand opening ceremony would occur in 2014. Mr. Sola advised that the building would continue to build to the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Silver Certification and staff believed that this project was on schedule and well within its budget.
Ms. Sandra Lonergan, Trial Court Administrator, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, appeared before the Committee and, on behalf of Chief Judge, expressed appreciation for the continuous support and partnership between the County and the Courts. She noted the Courts were extremely happy about the establishment of a courthouse dedicated to children and their families that would convey a message to the community that children and families were special. Ms. Lonergan noted this new courthouse would house all of the agencies needed to provide wraparound services to children, including Drug Court Mediation, Court Care, Clerk of Courts, State Attorney, Police Department, Department of Children and Families, Department of Juvenile Justice, Miami-Dade County Department of Corrections, Dade County Public Schools, and others. She described the process of assigning and allocating judges to the new courthouse which was designed to provide a more unified service operation.
Commissioner Heyman noted the County Commission looked forward to working with the County’s Third Chief Justice relative to the opening of the new Children’s, Courthouse Center.
Commissioner Edmonson requested a report on the status of the Caleb Center Courthouse and Garage project.
Mr. Lester Sola, Internal Services Department Director, stated he would be happy to meet with Commissioner Edmonson later to review and discuss the details of the project. He noted the situation was one where in comparison to the Children’s Courthouse Children’s Center, the Caleb Center Courthouse Parking Garage and renovation of some of the existing floors at the Caleb Center. Mr. Sola explained that the bids received were significantly higher than the estimated amount budgeted for that project, the lowest bid being around $28 million range with the amount budgeted being $21 million. He stated negotiations with the apparent low bidder had been ongoing for quite some time and advised that ultimately a funding gap would exist. Mr. Sola stated discussions with the Office of Management and Budget and the Mayor’s Office to develop and deliver a project to that facility.
Commissioner Edmonson suggested that the additional courtroom that was recently added at considerable costs be removed to allow the project to move forward. She further noted that her district office was located on the top floor of the Caleb Center and that the building needed to be renovated, adding that more leaks were discovered in the conference room.
Mr. Sola noted one of the options staff considered was whether the monies could be reallocated in order to refurbish the entire tower. He stated that refurbishment of only a portion of the tower was budgeted in the $21 million; however, he noted staff was looking to completely modernize the entire tower to include courtrooms within the existing tower. Additionally, Mr. Sola noted another option being considered was to build the garage and refurbish the courtrooms within the tower.
Commissioner Edmonson expressed concern with the changes described by Mr. Sola and stated it was commonplace for promises made to the community to not be fulfilled due to a shortage of funds. She stated she would like to see the courthouse, garage and renovations of the Caleb Center Tower project completed.
Mr. Sola noted he understood Commissioner Edmonson’s request.
In response to Chairwoman Heyman’s inquiry as to what period in 2014 the Children’s Courthouse would be completed, Mr. Sola noted construction would be completed between October and December, 2013, and move-in and follow-up would occur in 2014.
Chairwoman Heyman recognized Commissioner Barreiro and recalled his efforts, while serving in the State Legislature, to secure funds for a children’s courthouse and justice center in Miami-Dade County.
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