Monday, April 2, 2012

Courthouse Construction Two Months Behind Schedule

Construction of the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown has fallen 10 weeks behind schedule as crews struggle to stabilize the historic armory building on the site.

Crews working to tear down pieces of the 103-year-old armory building on Shewell Avenue discovered the structure in a much-weakened condition, said Jerry Anderson, Bucks County operations director.

Contractors are supporting parts of the building with “tremendous” steel braces to prevent its total collapse. Security fencing surrounds the structure.
The armory is on a residential street, where crews recently were busy carving out the rear wall.  The closest homeowner to the armory said he believed the county was taking all necessary precautions with the steel beams. Recently, crews had asked to inspect his basement to check the foundations, he said.

Portions of the armory are to be incorporated into the $84 million courthouse, which is scheduled to open in October 2013.

Anderson said the delays will have a minimal impact on the overall construction cost. “We should have our foundation in soon and the steel goes up quick,” he said.

Contracts were signed in January 2011 with five contractors to do the majority of the work on the eight-story center, which will sit off Broad and Main streets.

Ernest Bock & Sons of Philadelphia won the general construction bid of $58.2 million. Fairfield Co. of Lititz is to be paid $13 million for electrical work. Worth and Company of Pipersville will be paid $9 million for mechanical and plumbing. Schindler Elevator Corporation of Downingtown is to receive $2 million for elevators. Guy M. Cooper Inc. of Willow Grove was awarded a $1 million contract to install fire protection systems.

Meanwhile, county officials are busy deciding what to do with the existing courthouse at Main and Court streets. Moving more county workers into that building would allow the county to sell existing properties dispersed throughout Bucks, said Brian Hessenthaler, the county’s chief operating officer.

The existing courthouse was constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the county had about 310,000 residents and four judges. The county population has doubled and the number of judges has increased to 13.
Construction of the courthouse comes on the heels of a new parking garage. The $22 million parking structure at Broad and Union streets has 1,200 spaces, three elevators and was completed in 18 months.