Court Cost Could Go Up

June 9, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — County commissioners will decide this week whether to increase the cost of a new courthouse for the 63rd District Court by nearly $1.4 million. If they allocate the money, the total cost for the project could reach close to $9 million.

The 40,000-square-foot courthouse is set to go up on 5.3 acres on Knapp Street, just east of the East Beltline in Grand Rapids Township. The courthouse has been estimated to cost $6 million to build. The county agreed to buy the property from the township for $895,000 in January and estimated then it would cost about $625,000 to properly prepare the site for construction.

But $648,000 of the additional $1.393 million commissioners will consider on Thursday would cover new engineering expenses, stormwater management, building design changes and a lost-opportunity cost due to a delay in starting construction. Pushing back the start date became necessary when engineering changes to the site had to be made.

Another $645,000 of the new monies would go to buy a new geo-thermal heating and cooling system for the courthouse. County Facilities Management Director Robert Mihos said the new system would reduce the court’s yearly cost for natural gas and electricity by more than 30 percent.

Mihos said electricity would only be used to run the system’s motors and not be directly used to heat or cool the building. He estimated that the energy-cost savings would pay for the geo-thermal system in about 10 years.

“The anticipated recovery of 10 to 11 years is a pretty good investment,” said Art Tanis, county commissioner.

Mihos said the final $100,000 of the additional funds would be spent on getting LEED certification for the new courthouse.

The county’s Finance Committee recommended last week that commissioners approve the added expenditure. Last month, commissioners agreed to spend $35,000 to install a high-speed fiber optics communications connection for the courthouse as part of a project the city of Grand Rapids is doing.

The county plans to consolidate the court’s current locations in Rockford and Cascade Township at the Knapp Street site. County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said the move would save the county $11.5 million over the next 50 years.

Mihos said the county will solicit bids this month from contractors interested in managing the project.

Funds for the courthouse will come from a $22 million bond package the county took to market last month. At least $8 million of that revenue will go to the building project. The additional dollars would come from the 2009 capital improvement budget.

The county will spend the rest of the capital improvement bonds, about $14 million, on its Fuller Avenue campus. The work plan includes building new energy centers and a new animal shelter, and making upgrades to the streets.

Network 180, the county’s public mental health provider, is expanding and renovating its building at 728 Fuller Ave. NE, which is on the county’s campus. A groundbreaking for the project was held last Thursday.

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