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City Field Representative Notes Concrete Concerns at New Courthouse

7:05 PM, Apr 20, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hundreds of millions of your tax dollars pouring into the new courthouse. A project that's over budget, and behind schedule. Now, we're uncovering revealing pictures and reports.

In a First Coast News investigation, we inspected hundreds of field reports. And we noticed a trend:  the city's field worker wrote extensively about concerns he had with concrete.

We read a sampling of these hundreds of daily field reports city worker Ron Pataky prepared. Here are just some of his hundreds of concerns and pictures about concrete. He warns of, "rock pockets/unconsolidated concrete still occurring" on beams. 

In a separate report, he warns of, "spacing/exposed reinf. Stl continue to be exposed." Multiple times, he expresses concern about, "concrete repair material Mfg. application specifications are not being followed." And he was, "concerned that work performed after COJ representation has left site is not always in accordance with project specifications."

We called nearly 20 structural engineering firms in Jacksonville and throughout Florida to help us decipher these reports.  They declined for three main reasons: Liability concerns, conflicts because the city is already their client, or fear of losing future city business if they speak out.

We then turned to engineers who are not looking for new clients.

Dr. Adel ElSafty is a professor at the University of North Florida, and a licensed structural engineer.  He has, "three professional engineering licenses," he said.

"The initial look at this report, with these pictures of course it is alarming to the general public or alarming to any engineer who is looking at it," ElSafty said.

He said at first glance he was alarmed, but after more review, he said he would need much more information and on-site inspections to determine if the concerns are valid.

"The issues that I've seen when I've looked at the pictures, the report said it is very cosmetic, I can agree with that, it is very cosmetic that can be treated.  But some of them read more invasive, more critical kind of repair procedure in order for you to be able to say that the integrity of the structure is restored," he added.

Elected city council members also serve on special committees.  We found two who are on the courthouse oversight committee.  They are also left with many questions after seeing these city reports.

Councilman Bill Bishop said, "We should be very concerned about this stuff." Now, he said he is looking for answers. "Any project of this size is going to have these kinds of things. But when you see a pattern developing over several months, with the same issue time and time and time again, with a notation from the city inspector that this is going on, on a repeated basis, come on folks, what going on, and we're city the same thing happen, yeah, that should through up all sorts of red flags," Bishop said.

We also showed these reports to the courthouse oversight committee chairman, Councilman Greg Anderson. "My concern really is what we have done to make sure the problem has been addressed," he said.

Bishop added, "I'm going to ask a lot of questions about that, and going to expect some legitimate substantive issues and I'm not going to accept the typical answer is oh, yeah, we've addressed it. Well how have you addressed it, show me in the reports of how you fixed it, because I'm not believing it at the moment."

We asked to interview the man who wrote these reports, city employee Ron Pataky. We also asked to interview the city's senior project manager Dave Schneider. Over the past two days, we sent two e-mails and called the city several times, asking for those interviews.

When I called the city's director of communication David Decamp Friday, he said they were "assessing" my requests.  He called back while anchor-reporter Jeff Marcu was anchoring the news at 5:47 p.m. Friday afternoon and said he would talk to us.  Marcu called him Decamp back on his office and cell phone numbers. As of this posting, he has not called us back or granted us an interview. 

Our top three questions for the city: 

Has someone addressed these problems?
Are they of major concern?
Who was in charge of responding to these daily reports?

We've also requested an interview with Turner Construction, the company building the courthouse. We have recently heard back from Turner, and we are going to try and get answers to the questions we have highlighted.

We should get more answers Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. That's the next courthouse oversight committee meeting.  Councilman Bishop said he has invited Schneider, Pataky and people from Turner.

First Coast News

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