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Fasano urges state leaders to block move to 'Taj Mahal' courthouse

TALLAHASSEE — The 1st District Court of Appeal should be stopped from moving into its posh new courthouse, says Sen. Mike Fasano, chairman of the committee that controls budgets for the state's court system.

In letters to Gov. Charlie Crist, Gov.-elect Rick Scott and legislative leaders sent late Thursday, Fasano urged officials to put the move on hold and spend some time examining other ways to use the new building that critics have dubbed a "Taj Mahal."

But it looks to be too late. Two United vans were outside the courthouse about 6 p.m. Thursday.

"The move has been scheduled for some time and is already under way," 1st DCA Chief Judge Robert T. Benton II said in an e-mail. "The court will be open for business in the new courthouse Monday."

Fasano's committee will launch an investigation into the new courthouse when his Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations meets in January. He has questioned the ballooning price tag of a courthouse originally estimated to cost $22 million. The cost now tops $50 million when including annual rent payments the court will have to make. The old courthouse was controlled by the court system and was rent-free.

"Over the past few years, we have struggled to cut literally billions of dollars from the state budget to keep public education and desperately needed social services available to as many Floridians as possible," Fasano wrote. "To find that African mahogany covers wall after wall, and to see rooms replete with granite desks and countertops, makes one's eyes widen in disbelief. The planned recreation room and the robing facilities for judges that aren't even on the court are just some more examples of a project gone wild."

Fasano urges state leaders to block move to 'Taj Mahal' courthouse 12/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 10:46pm]

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