Cost to design Gwinnett courthouse expansion rises 78 percent

Gwinnett County will pay an architect an extra $2.2 million to finish designing an expansion of its main courthouse and administrative building in Lawrenceville.

By a 3-2 vote, the county Board of Commissioners Tuesday agreed to pay Pieper O’Brien Herr Architects the extra money to finish plans for an addition to the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. With the extra money, the company will earn about $5 million – 78 percent more than its original contract.

Tuesday's vote follows a decision last month to move forward with the $74.6 million courthouse expansion, which had been on hold for years.

The 180,485-square-foot addition includes criminal courtrooms, a new jury assembly area and other facilities. The project also includes a 1,500-space parking garage. To pay for the work, Gwinnett will use money from a sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

Gwinnett officials say the expansion will make it easier to schedule trials and speed up the criminal justice process.

The project originally was scheduled to be completed in 2013. But commissioners postponed construction in 2010 as the Great Recession took a toll on county revenue.

The architect’s contract – originally awarded in 2009 – was also put on hold. County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said revisions to the original design are needed to conserve precious space at the county’s Lawrenceville campus.

For example, the original design called for a parking garage in front of the justice center. Moving it to the back will leave more space for future expansions, Nash said.

Two commissioners – John Heard and Tommy Hunter – said the architect’s contract was so old it should have been rebid.

Commissioner Jace Brooks said rebidding would take more time, with no guarantee that it would save money.