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Board bounces budget-busting Courthouse bids

Henderson County commissioners rejected Grove Street courthouse renovation bids that exceeded the budget by 25 percent and sent a planning team back to the drawing board to scale back the project.


"Based upon the scope, I think it's called scope creep," County Manager Steve Wyatt. "If it's not a term, it is now."
Wyatt said commissioners crafted a broad vision that grew beyond the original focus on security concerns and a space crunch for judicial services.
"We tried too hard, as we do, to accommodate folks," he said.
The low bidder for the work, Marsh/Bell Construction Co. of Easley, S.C., submitted a base bid of $1.12 million plus $173,599 for six alternates for a total of $1,297,772. The high number among four bidders was made by Bolton Construction & Service of WNC, which offered to do the work for $1.6 million.
Adding a customary 25 percent for design and contingency, the construction bids pushed the cost $300,000 over budget, County Engineer Marcus Jones said.
The board accepted the recommendation of Wyatt and Jones to reject the bids, recast the scope of the project and come back with options. Assigned as advisers for the redo were commissioners Tommy Thompson, who served as Clerk of Superior Court for 32 years, first in the 1905 Courthouse and then the 1995 Grove Street Courthouse, and Michael Edney, a lawyer who works in the courthouse on a day-to-day basis.
"I helped design it the way it is now back in the early '90s and we've outgrown it already," Thompson said. "We have spent unknown hours working on his. I can't go along with this. I can't come to this board and say we need to spend this amount of money. I'm all in favor of rejecting the bid and starting over. We need a clear slate, maybe a new bunch of folks on the other end (and) a new architect."
Thompson said he had spoken with Tax Assessor Stan Duncan and looked again at the need for changes to the tax office and other departments on the first two floors.
Duncan "can get by and has indicated to me he doesn't want to be moving and changing things especially if we come up with a revaluation," he said. "The Register of Deeds is in pretty good shape. That office can operate quite well. My old office, they can get by. In reality, the real problem is (that) the district attorney and the public defender are working out of boxes in the hallways and they're falling on top of each other. Something's got to be done. And of course security was no. 1 on our list."
Commissioners agreed that security remained and grew from there. They directed the staff to come back with options that solve that problem within the budget.