State attorney upset by courthouse delays

Building that will house state attorney's office won't be ready by May

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The problems and delays on the last segment of the new courthouse continue to create friction between the state attorney and the mayor's office.

It's not known when renovations of the old federal courthouse will begin again and when the state attorney's office will be allowed to move in, but the delay has State Attorney Angela Corey upset.

"It's intolerable. We cannot function this way," she said.

Corey said something has to give. As Channel 4 reported last week that while the new courthouse is on track to open in May, work on a second building that will house the state attorney's offices has stopped. The building is just a shell with broken windows, it's way over budget and nowhere near complete.

"We need to be in our building as soon as possible," Corey said.

The work may not be completed until December, possibly later. And in the meantime, prosecutors would be forced to walk about 10 minutes from their current offices to the new courthouse.

"It can't be," Corey said. "We have got to be closer. I don't know what the city intends to do."

Staff in the mayor's office said they plan to look again at the building and cut costs because this part of the project is over budget by nearly $8 million.

"We are trying to save our taxpayers money," said Ronnie Belton, city of Jacksonville's chief financial officer.

"They are not going to save money on the backs of my employees who are already pitifully underpaid," Corey said.

Corey said when the new courthouse opens in May, she is not sure where her staff is going to be.

"We have to meet with victims. We have to meet with law enforcement officers," Corey said. "We have hundreds and hundreds of people every single week who have to go back and forth to court with us, not the least of which are citizens of our community. What are we going to ask them? We are going to ask a mother who has to bring her children to walk eight blocks with us to see a judge. That can't happen."

Corey said she will meet with the city to try to come up with some solution, but for now, both sides will have to wait and get their walking shoes ready.

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