Four firms have submitted proposals to design and build a central Pasco County Courthouse, and a committee is expected to choose one early next year if the county decides to move forward with the project.
The committee, composed of representatives from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, county government and the Sixth Judicial Circuit, set a timetable for firms to submit detailed proposals that include cost estimates. Members will set up another meeting for early February to make a decision.
The firms included DLR Group, of Gainesville, Lend Lease (US) Construction Inc. of Tampa, Moss & Associates of Orlando and Peter Brown Construction Solutions of Clearwater.
All have years of experience building and expanding courthouses in the region and elsewhere.
The idea of a central Pasco criminal courthouse has been controversial, with Sheriff Chris Nocco and Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil expressing concerns about costs. Nocco also worried about how a courthouse on property near the Land O'Lakes jail would affect parking.
Judges, prosecutors and public defenders have called for a central courthouse for years, saying that splitting the cases in east and west side courthouses poses logistical and security problems.
County commissioners, facing a tight budget year, put the brakes on the project over the summer, saying they wanted to find out more about operating costs.
The courthouse, estimated to cost about $28 million, would be paid for with a bond issue from traffic fines and a half-cent sales tax. By law, that money cannot be used for any other purpose. But the county would have to pay for its operation.
"By short-listing all four firms and getting cost proposals when you make your decision, we'll actually know all the cost and have a good sense of what the cost to own it is," County Administrator Michele Baker told the group Thursday. "We're going to have to figure out where the money comes from if we decide to build. I don't think we're full speed ahead yet."