The General Services Administration has spent over $700,000 on design work for Cape Girardeau's new federal courthouse and still doesn't know what the building will look like.
The agency plans to spend another $225,000 to get to that point.
It hasn't been easy designing the courthouse. The federal government paid 440,000 to a Chicago architectural firm for a design that ultimately was scrapped, partly because it didn't envision air-conditioning the whole building.
Now the GSA has hired Atkins Benham, a St. Louis architectural firm, at a cost of $305,000 to draw up specifications that will be used by three contractor/architect groups competing to design and build the courthouse.
The competing groups will each be paid $75,000 as a stipend to provide preliminary plans for the building, officials said.
Bond Faulwell, deputy regional administrator for the GSA in Kansas City, Mo., said the design competition and the stipend should encourage better design plans.
The GSA hopes to ink a contract in December with the winning group so final design work can be completed. If that happens, site work could begin as early as April, officials say.
The winning group will be chosen on the basis of the preliminary design. John Casey, director of property development for the GSA in Kansas City, said about 80 percent of the design work will remain to be done once a contract is signed.
In all, the GSA estimates it may spend over $3 million on design work for a project that initially was penciled in for just over $2 million in design expenses.
U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who opposed the earlier design work of the Chicago architectural firm of Ross, Barney and Jankowski, said the outward appearance of the new courthouse will be determined through the design competition.
Faulwell defended hiring the Atkins Benham firm to draw up the specifications.
He said the GSA has reduced staff at its offices across the nation. Today, it has 14,000 employees, or 6,000 fewer than it had 10 years ago, he said.
"We are predominately a contracting organization," Faulwell said. "We make heavy use of the private sector in everything we do."
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