January 13, 2011
By 2-1 Vote, Commissioners Approve Six Contracts Totaling $84 Million for New Justice Center
One week after unanimously tabling a vote to move ahead with the construction of a new Bucks County Justice Center, Commissioners Charles H. Martin, chairman, James F. Cawley, Esq. and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW reconvened to continue discussion of six contracts. Following an hour of comment and debate in a Special Meeting format, Chairman Martin and Commissioner Cawley voted to move ahead with the $84 million project – with one significant change. Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia motioned to table the project for six months of additional consideration, a motion that was not seconded. Ultimately, she voted against Commissioner Cawley’s motion to approve the $84 million contract awards for fire protection, general construction, elevator, electrical plumbing and mechanical vendors.
Much of the public discussion – and show of support - centered upon General Construction low-bidder Ernest Bock and Sons, a Philadelphia-based contractor with Bucks County ownership that ultimately was awarded the general construction bid for $58.167 million. The commissioners awarded the other five contracts to Guy M. Cooper, Inc. of Willow Grove, PA (fire protection, $1.018 million), Schindler Elevator Corp. of Downingtown, PA (elevator, $2.15 million), the Farfield Company of Lititz, PA (electrical, $13.2 million), and Worth and Company of Pipersville (plumbing, $2.175 million; mechanical, $7.234 million).
Following the vote, Chairman Martin addressed Bock & Sons Vice-President Thomas E. Bock, who was seated in the front row of the Courthouse Community Room. “I do respect and I want to compliment our (county) staff,” the chairman stated. “I think they gave their best opinion and their valuable input. They certainly raised some question as to how we ought to proceed. Their diligence resulted in us getting additional information.”
Chairman Martin continued, looking at Mr. Bock, who earlier promised to give “150 percent” to the Justice Center project. “You have made certain statements to us here today, and I’m taking you at your word. I believe you are an honorable man. However, I tell you that in the course of this process, I have heard many other comments about your firm that are not as kindly as the ones I’ve heard this morning. I know where you live – and trust me – we will be inviting you back to this meeting should we get any reports that things are not progressing. I’m looking forward to having a successful project moving forward.”
Before a packed room that included President Judge Susan D. Scott and the Hon. Robert J. Mellon, Commissioner Cawley expressed his thoughts about his “yes” vote. “I don’t want to build this project – never did,” he stated. “I don’t want to, but I have to.”
Commissioner Cawley continued with his remarks: “We are now faced, finally, with the decision to move this project forward. I am prepared to make motions in order to accomplish that goal.”
Observing that the Justice Center vote was “not black and white,” or “an easy decision,” Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia read a statement regarding her request to delay the project. “It may seem counterintuitive that a process that has lasted over 10 years needs further delay, but frankly the recent shocking disagreements between the judges and the commissioners should be giving us all pause. The tensions and the divisions put on public display, by the court and county officials, should be sending up a red flag to taxpayers. We can’t afford to get this wrong.”
County Director of Operations Gerald Anderson recommended to the commissioners that they approve Justice Center contracts that include an extra $2.7 million for a “buildout” of three additional courtrooms and 12 conference rooms for the 5th above-ground floor of the new facility. Judge Scott concurred that this was the recommendation supported by the judges of the Court of Common Pleas.
“I can assure you, yes,” Judge Scott replied to Commissioner Cawley when asked if the proposed bid specifications can meet the judiciary needs of the residents of Bucks County. “We’re moving forward.”
For complete audio of the Special Meeting, please visit www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the Commissioners’ Meetings link.