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Courthouse bids are in

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 8:27 am

The Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors received nine bids for the proposed judicial center. The lowest bid for the two-story complex came in at $7.9 million. The county has set a public meeting for July 30 to meet with the architect and the county’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA).

W.M. Schlosser submitted a $7.9 million bid for the base project, which includes the 3,900 square-foot complex. Schlosser and the other bidders also submitted bids for “add-ons” to the project that the supervisors will also consider at the July 30 meeting.

The first addition involved constructing the sheriff’s office portion of the facility – which is located on the ground level in the rear of the facility – in such a way that if extra space is needed in the future, the support beams would be able to sustain a second-story addition. Schlosser submitted an additional cost of $362,000 for that addition.

The second add-on is to provide a facility behind the new judicial center for the sheriff’s department to store impounded property and other evidence. Schlosser submitted an additional cost of $115,000 for that addition.

Sclosser’s total bid for the project is $8.4 million. Schlosser submitted the lowest overall bid and the lowest bids for each proposed portion of the project.

County Administrator Norm Risavi told supervisors that the courthouse architect, Richard Funk, with dBf Associates, is currently checking the reference Schlosser provided. Risavi said the lowest bidder cannot be disregarded for arbitrary reasons. Any reason the county may have to reject the lowest bidder must be given to the bidder in writing and the bidder then has 10 days to respond through the Circuit Court. Schlosser, Risavi said, has built courthouse facilities in Fauquier and Surrey counties.

The July 30 meeting will give the supervisors and members of the IDA an opportunity to discuss how much money the county wants to take as a loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development.

In March, the IDA voted to apply for a community facility loan through Rural Development. The county applied for $9.1 million but is not obligated to take that full loan amount. The projected interest rate for this loan is 3.75 percent, which Risavi said in March made the loan an attractive alternative for funding the building of the judicial center. Now the supervisors need to determine if they want to get a loan for the $7.9 million base project or any amount that includes the add-on projects.

Several county residents expressed disappointment over a perceived lack of transparency over the process of building the facility.

You promised a public hearing on the courthouse and there hasn’t been one,” said Kennon Morris, with the Westmoreland Concerned Citizens Association. “You’re circumventing the public on an $8 million project.”

Former District 2 Supervisors Russ Culver encouraged the supervisors to let the public have an opportunity to speak out.

I’d like to see the board have an open meeting with the public. You don’t want people to feel that [the county administration] didn’t listen to the people,” Culver said. “It is still up to the board and IDA to do what they feel is in the best interest of the county, but give the people an opportunity to speak.”