Bucks County Commissioners voted to move forward with plans to build a new justice center. By a two-to-one vote, the commissioners, somewhat reluctantly, awarded six contracts totaling $84 million for the construction of the 285,000 square foot courthouse.
Discussing his "yes" vote for the project, Commissioner James Cawley stated, "I don't want to build this project. The simple reality is I don't want to, but I have to."
The project will include a controversial and hotly debated fifth floor, which will include three additional courtrooms and 12 additional conference rooms. Speaking on behalf of Bucks County's 13 judges, Judge Robert Mellon noted that the three additional courtrooms will be needed by the time the project is completed and delaying their construction would only add to the cost.
While the contractor awarded the contract wasn't the lowest bidder, the contractor was the "lowest responsible bidder" when the debated additional floor was factored into the bid price. The commissioners were mandated to award the bid to the lowest responsible bidder.
The Lone Dissenting Vote
The lone dissenting commissioner, Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia, prior to the vote, suggested postponing the vote on the project for an additional six months so that a design for a smaller building could be completed.
"The truth is, we cannot afford this. At the very least we need to see what happens with the economy and with state and federal budgets over the next six months," stated Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia.
Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia noted that it was "irresponsible" to pass this debt along to future generations, especially with nine percent unemployment, state funding cuts, and the need to spend the money on county services like elderly care, homelessness, mental health and others.
While the project is not without controversy, the new build with the additional courtroom space was supported by Bucks County's 13 judges and will allow for more efficient flow of cases and staff.
The attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford represent clients facing many different legal issues in Bucks County courtrooms as well as Montgomery County, Lehigh County, Chester County, Delaware County and throughout the surrounding areas.