Council overrides veto for courthouse furniture

$750K to be allocated for 7th-floor hearing rooms of new building

The city is planning to move furniture out of Duval County's existing courtroomsinto hearing rooms in the new courthouse scheduled to open late next month.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council voted Thursday to override the mayor's veto of allocating $750,000 for furniture for hearing rooms on the seventh floor of the new Duval County Courthouse slated to open this month.

The council voted 15-2 at a meeting late Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this month, Mayor Alvin Brown vetoed the council's motion to spend the money.

The dispute over buying new furniture has been a major battle between the mayor, Chief Judge Donald Moran and City Council members.

"I think the vote is appropriate," Moran said. "I think the people won on this vote, and I know the (mayor's) administration may disagree, but I really think in the long run, this furniture hopefully will last as long as the other furniture -- 50 years. And even some of the 50-year-old furniture, which is still in decent shape, we do intend to move. They're right. So it's not like we were trying to just ingratiate ourselves."

"I am surprised in these tough economic times that we want to spend an additional $750,000 when we already invested $5 million (in furniture)," Brown said at a news conference last week. "It's tough out there. People have lost their jobs, their homes in trying to make ends meet."

In a letter to City Council President Stephen Joost, Brown said one of his goals has been to save taxpayers money in the completion of this project, adding that the new courthouse was originally projected to cost $190 million and has grown to $350 million.

Council members had questions about how the mayor planned to save money by using old courthouse furniture -- furniture some members said would contaminate the new courthouse with mold.

Chris Hand, the mayor's chief of staff, said Jim Robinson, the head of public works, will meet with the judges to decide what the next step is. He said there's still some savings opportunities in the process.

Courthouse employees were to begin moving into the new facility by week's end.