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City of Jacksonville making good on overdue payment to Turner Construction

6:05 PM, Jul 5, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It is $350 million in taxpayer money. On a project that's years overdue and over budget. We're talking about the new courthouse. Now, city leaders say they are doing all they can to protect your cash.

It's something you don't want to see when you open your e-mail.  An overdue notice for a bill. That's what several managers with the City of Jacksonville received on Tuesday. The bill is from Turner Construction for a payment toward the new courthouse. The amount: nearly $4 million.

RELATED: Who decided to move to the new courthouse before it was ready?

Margaret Simone, a senior project manager from Turner, wrote an e-mail demanding the city pay the delinquent payment per an agreement. She explained Turner submitted the payment on May 16, 2012 and then resubmitted it on June 11, 2012. She claimed the City missed the June 21 deadline and is violating the Florida Prompt Payment Act. That regulates how local governments are required to pay contractors.

The letter ends by outlining the required interest for past due invoices. We asked the City's Chief Financial Office Ronnie Belton about the payment issue. 

"Oh, easy answer," Belton said. "We were reviewing all the costs in there. The invoices were about eight inches thick. I wanted to go through each of them."

He said the city made the payment on Tuesday, and city staff provided us documentation of that payment. Turner Construction is scheduled to receive the direct deposit Friday.

An agreement shows the city's legal counsel hired a private law firm to review contractual and other legal issues between COJ and Turner. The initial budget for this contract is not to exceed $60,000 of your taxpayer money over the next two to three months.

Belton said there's a reason the City hired this firm.

"Same deal, we want to be real clear on this. This is a $350 million your money and my money project. And the caution we're taking and the care that we're taking I think is appropriate," he said.

Belton said the late payment was not related to the courthouse not opening on time

"Absolutely not.  And that's where I thought you were trying to head and that's what I'm saying to you. This had nothing to do with anything other than making sure all "I's" were dotted and "T's" were crossed."

Belton added the City has already paid Turner more than $200 million so far.  He doesn't think the city did anything wrong by not paying this bill on time. 

First Coast News also called the Senior Project Manager from Turner Construction who wrote this demand letter. As of Thursday evening, Margaret Simone has not yet returned our call.

First Coast News

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