County settles courthouse contract dispute for $232,000

EVERETT — Snohomish County leaders approved a $232,000 settlement Wednesday to resolve a contract dispute with the architectural firm jettisoned from the new courthouse project.

The payment to ZGF Architects of Seattle comes on top of $400,000 in legal fees already approved for condemnation proceedings.

A half-dozen business owners need to leave property on the perimeter of a county parking lot by mid- to late November to make way for the nine-story courthouse building. Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2015.

“This is a losing battle for us in terms of us being able to keep our property,” said Janean Jolly, who owns one of the condemned businesses with her husband, attorney David Jolly. “We’ve accepted that.”

The Jollys, like some of their neighbors, are now packing up to move to rented office space in Everett.

As planned, the county’s future $162 million courthouse will occupy one block of Wall Street, between Rockefeller and Oakes avenues.

The new building will replace the county’s 1967 courthouse, on the south side of Wall and a block west. Officials say the old building is plagued with safety and health problems, many of which can’t be fixed through remodeling.

Plans call for demolishing the courthouse in 2017, after the new facility is ready. The historic Mission building will remain.

The new 250,000-square-foot court building is being designed to house 20 courtrooms, plus workspace for clerks, deputy prosecutors who handle criminal cases and public defenders. There is room for either the sheriff’s office administration or the county’s civil attorneys, but not both.

The County Council in July removed ZGF as its main courthouse architect favor of Heery International, an Atlanta-based firm already consulting on the project. Concerns that the project would run over budget were a large part of what motivated the change, officials said.

The county has spent more than $2.2 million to date on the courthouse, mostly for legal costs and design work.

Wednesday’s 5-0 council vote to approve the ZGF settlement was one of several costly legal resolutions the county has absorbed of late.

On Monday, the council approved a $125,000 payment to settle a workplace-discrimination suit brought by a Medical Examiner’s Office investigator. In September, the council agreed to fork over $575,000 to resolve a public records case involving land-use decisions in the floodplain.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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