Elkins Constructors Inc. was awarded the contract for the work based on its qualifications without bidding. It had submitted a guaranteed maximum price of "just under $28 million," said Jim Robinson, director of the City's Public Works Department.
Hand said in April that a better price could be negotiated for the project if it was bid.
At the time, Robinson told the committee the project was 120 days from requesting bids and that part of the process could take 60 days, followed by a 14-month construction phase.
The oversight committee again met Wednesday. Robinson told members Connecticut-based Morganti Group was the low bidder at $30.85 million when bids were opened.
He said all submitted bids for the project exceeded the just under $26 million remaining in the $350 million Duval County Unified Courthouse project.
Robinson said the City has been conducting "post bid negotiations" with Morganti and the contractor has submitted a list of changes that could reduce cost and meet the available budget. He said a meeting is scheduled Friday with the contractor, the administration and the state attorney's office to "closely evaluate" the list.
Assistant State Attorney Mike Weinstein attended the oversight meeting, representing the state attorney's office.
"At best, I think we're going to be two years late getting in (to offices in the former federal building)," Weinstein said.
A bill introduced last year to Council to allocate $30 million of the remaining overall project budget for the renovation was withdrawn in December because of a lack of funds, said Council President Bill Bishop.
Weinstein said the state attorney's office was unaware the legislation was to be withdrawn until it was removed from Council's agenda. He asked the committee to introduce new legislation to earmark funds and ensure the project is completed.
"That would make my boss very comfortable that this will happen," he said, referring to State Attorney Angela Corey.
Weinstein said Corey is concerned that additional costs involved in finishing the County Courthouse building could start "nipping away" at the funds remaining in the budget.
"It would be easier for us if the Council had to approve taking away encumbered money instead of leaving it in a pot. The State Attorney would like to see an illustration," he said.
Also Wednesday, questions were raised concerning more than $5 million in outstanding invoices submitted by subcontractors who have yet to be paid for the courthouse project.
Ronnie Belton, City chief financial officer, said the administration is concerned over arithmetic errors and other billing issues with Turner Construction, the general contractor for the project.
"We're concerned about the validity of the work. Our disconnect is with Turner," he said.
Mark Alles, Turner Construction project director, said more than $5 million in subcontractor-submitted invoices have not yet been paid because the City has not paid Turner.
"We're concerned about payment. We're obligated to pay the subs when we're paid by the City," he said.
Alles said Turner isn't sure what issues the City has with the company and the company would "like to have an open dialogue" with public works or the mayor's office.
He said Turner has tried to meet with Belton since October, without success.
"It's a communications issue that we want to get solved," said Alles.
Asked by Council member and committee chair Greg Anderson to comment on what Alles said, Belton declined.
City Assistant General Counsel Mike Wedner said because the legal issues involved contracts between the City and Turner and between Turner and its subcontractors, a public meeting "isn't the time and place" for discussion.
"There is the possibility there may be some litigation over this," Wedner said.
On April 23, Chris Hand, Mayor Alvin Brown's chief of staff, informed the City Council Courthouse Oversight Committee the contract to refurbish the former federal courthouse into new offices for the state attorney had been terminated and would be rebid.