Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brad Ellis's Comments Against the Courts Complex

The City of Fredericksburg is embarking on a potential upgrade to our courts. Brad Ellis made the statement in his run for the Ward 1 seat, that he was creating a website instead of a blog so that he could interact with the public. I hate to break it to him, but with out an RSS feed, and no comments section, he's severely limiting his 'interaction'.

So to help him out, I'm going to quote his website right here on this blog. He can come here and comment along with the rest of the public. His comments are definitely against starting this project now (which I agree with to some degree). He also brings up an interesting analysis of the cost per sq foot. He fails to mention that if they do start, he supports the $7M parking garage. I have not had the chance to ask him if this garage would be revenue supported, or if it's yet another addition to our tax payer supported bond package.

From (Brad Ellis, Ward 1 Council Member), spelling errors included:

Court House Complex - A copy of the Court Facility Feasibility Study is available here. Simply put, the City cannot afford to undergo this project during the next fiscal year. We are entering the next budget cycle with a $4M shortfall. The funding required to build this complex depends upon the chosen alternative and ranges, in cost, from $45M to $65M. This translates to a tax rate increase of $0.080 to $0.115, which, in my opinion, cannot be justified during these difficult economic times.

  • Indeed, the City is facing a potential Judicial directive to build a new court house facility, HOWEVER, we are not being told to build this facility next year. It is also important to note that this project will consume all the marginal revenue growth in the General Fund starting in Fiscal Year 2011. For these reasons, I cannot support moving forward with constructing the court house complex at this time.
  • What I am willing to support is an in-depth review of a the costs and benefits of constructing a joint-use facility located near the Regional jail complex. I understand the potential economic impact of having our courts downtown and feel it is possible to still use our historic court house (with modifications to improve security and technology) for all civil case trials. A Regional Courts Facility would therefore be used for all trials involving criminal cases; located where the criminals are actually incarcerated. This approach would have the added benefit of freeing-up City police from needing to transport criminals back and forth to their holding cells.
  • I realize there has been a lot of preliminary work performed by the City and to change course at this point seems counterintuitive. However, the fact is, the City cannot afford this courts complex at this point in time and it is unfair to put other projects on hold and / or raise taxes to fund this project. A more attractive course of action would be to use the next year to serisouly consider the costs and benefits of a joint-use facility while still maintaining our historic courthouse for civial trials. As responsible stewards of our City's resources we owe the residents a true analysis of this approach.
  • Further notes on the cost of this project: The Operations & Maintenance costs for this complex are estimated to be $200,000 per year. The cost, per square foot of this complex will range from $619 (for a$47M facility) to $769 (for a $60M facility). This price tag is UNACCEPTABLE in my book. I work in the IT field and the cost per square foot to build a data center completely equipped with inside/outside cabling plant, robust security features, and very substantial heating and air conditioning capabilities, and raised floor space costs, on average, $600 per square foot. Furthermore, Quantico Corporate Center was recently constructed in Stafford to be compliant with Homeland Security requirements (much more stringent than those for our proposed court house complex) for around $150 per square foot. We should not move forward with this project under the terms laid out in the Feasibility Study at any time...we are going to get ripped-off if we pay these prices.

  • Sustainability of the Proposed New Courts Complex: I find it very interesting that if we were to embark upon this project and finance it over 30 years that we will have outgrown it 20 years into our occupancy based off of the City's projected growth rate. Our current court house has been operational since 1852; shouldn't we at least embark upon a project that will prove useful for at least the next 100 years?

  • I encourage everyone to ponder the details I've put forth and speak-out publicly and in writing to ALL of your elected officials. THIS IS NOT A GOOD DEAL FOR THE CITY.

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