The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Council warned of negative court vote
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
If the Fredericksburg City Council had not approved the four special use and exception permits for the new courthouse Tuesday night, the project could have been killed.
However, the permitting was approved.
City Manager Beverly Cameron outlined the consequences of a negative vote in a memo to council members and explained them during the meeting.
The permits are required to construct the new courthouse and add a vehicle curb cut, in addition to making the roof higher than what is currently allowed, to have off-site parking and a higher floor area ratio.
Before the vote, the council members had a lengthy—and at times testy—discussion about the implications of the vote and how it would affect the $31.8 million contract the city signed with First Choice Public–Private Partners last year to design and build the courthouse, build an interim Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court and renovate the General District Court building.
Cameron told them that if they did not approve the permits, the city would not be able to issue a building permit.
“If you fail to approve one or more of them [permits], then it stands to reason the project can not go forward and we will be compelled to terminate the contract with First Choice,” Cameron told the council.
Cameron said that even if the contract is terminated, the city has to:
Pay for all the work performed so far and other fees associated with the work
Pay “reasonable costs and expenses attributable to the termination, including demobilization costs and amounts due in settlement of terminated contracts with subcontractors and design consultants”
Pay the $35 million in general obligation bonds—or about $2.1 million per year. The bonds can be called—redeemed early—after 10 years.
The city has already paid or incurred about $4 million for the project through Aug. 31.
If the contract were terminated with First Choice, it would be considered a “termination of convenience”—which means terminating the contract without a reason.
Cameron told the council that if that happened, it would likely hurt the city’s business reputation and could lower the city’s bond rating.
Cameron said the contract includes a construction schedule.
If the council were to delay work 30 or 60 days, or another amount of time, the builders would incur costs, which the city would have to pay, Cameron said.
Council members Fred Howe and Matt Kelly voted against all four permits. Council member Bea Paolucci joined them in voting against the special exception for off-site parking.
Howe has been a strong opponent of the courthouse for months and Kelly spoke out against the project even before he was elected to the council in May.
Along with Howe, Councilman Brad Ellis voted against the project last November, when it was approved, but changed his vote Tuesday. He said he wanted assurances from
Cameron that he would provide the cost of maintaining the new courthouse for its first five years.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413