Johnson County supervisor: Could we sue consultant?

By Gregg Hennigan

Iowa City – Rod Sullivan was not happy during a discussion of jail and court needs Wednesday.

The Johnson County supervisor didn’t like that, after several years of planning for a combined justice center, some were suggesting  looking at a split jail and courthouse.

And he wasn’t happy with the consultant the board hired two years ago to study its options. In fact, he wondered outloud if the county could sue the firm, Dubuque-based Durrant Group Inc.

“We did not get our money’s worth out of this,” he said.

(A story about the meeting can be found here and in Thursday’s Gazette.)

Durrant was paid about $70,000 and, after more than a year of work, came up with four possible locations for a combined justice center.

But other county officials, including County Attorney Janet Lyness, said Wednesday that the Durrant study did not lay out what it would cost to renovate the courthouse and build a jail at a separate site.

That’s a scenario that is now being considered with the Press-Citizen building, and the county may need to pay for another study.

Wednesday was not the first time supervisors had expressed frustration with Durrant. In April 2008, Durrant’s Michael Lewis unveiled for the supervisors his preliminary assessment of possible sites for a facility.

But some supervisors said at the time that they expected more detailed information, particularly cost estimates. Also, Lewis’ final report was late.

Some of that frustration came out when Lewis asked the supervisors to narrow the list of sites to two or three.

“I don’t feel that we can answer your question because I don’t feel like you’ve done what we asked you to do,” said Sullivan, who was the board’s chairman at the time.

Lewis eventually came back with more detailed plans, and county officials later that year zeroed in on a site south of the existing courthouse as their preferred location for a justic center.

They liked that it was close to downtown and had easy access to public transportation and nearby facilities.

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