Florida Keys News
Monday, November 26, 2012
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Lobby expansionto reduce lines at courthouse

A contractor has been hired and work is slated to begin on the $600,000 renovation of the Freeman Justice Center in Key West in December barring any setbacks, officials said this week.

The Monroe County Project Management Department is working with the 16th Judicial Circuit to expand the courthouse lobby to accommodate jurors, lawyers and visitors who must wait in line to pass through a metal detector, said Trial Court Administrator Holly Elomina.

Those lines often extend into the parking lot, and can make for an uncomfortable wait in hot or rainy weather.

The $18.1 million courthouse is just four years old, but the design oversight in the entrance has been a headache since it opened in 2008.

D.L. Porter Constructors Inc. -- which is based in Sarasota, but has offices in Key West -- will be the primary contractor, said Monroe County Project Management Director Jerry Barnett. The company will be hiring subcontractors for some of the work as well, but the specific subconstractors remain to be seen, Barnett said.

Hiring D.L. Porter was a natural choice as they have worked closely with Monroe County in the past, Barnett said.

The firm built the multimillion-dollar Florida Keys Mosquito Control District aircraft facility in Marathon and worked on the historic Gato Cigar Factory building that now houses the county's administrative offices.

Another change under way is a new facility for drug court. The program will be moved from the old courthouse on Whitehead Street to the rear of the Freeman Justice Center on Thomas Street, Elomina said. The new drug court space will be funded by traffic citations, she said.

"We're excited about the new drug court and glad that it is moving forward," Elomina said.

Barnett said the work should take about six months.

"We're hoping they can get it done before that," he added.

The construction cost for the renovation is $503,600 and drawing and architectural costs put the whole project at about $600,000 Barnett said.

The courthouse originally was projected to cost $13.8 million, but overruns and security issues drove the final cost to $18.1 million.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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