Federal Courthouse staff question funding of project in new memo

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Another wrench in the ongoing construction at Federal Courthouse in downtown Savannah.

Crews have been working since September 2021 to modernize the courthouse by boosting security and accessibility.

In an unsigned memo dated August 24, staff from the Tomochichi Federal Courthouse raise questions about where funding to finish the project will come from.

It comes as construction road closures have plagued nearby businesses and neighbors for years.

According to the memo, $70 million for renovations have been committed with the project being 30% complete. The memo says another $25 million is needed to ensure the project’s completion.

In a statement, the Clerk of Court for the Southern District of Georgia says, “The memo was drafted by the Court in a response to a request for information from the City of Savannah regarding the Court’s perspective on the background and status of the project.”

In the memo, staff say the federal administration overseeing the project has found funding from other projects that wouldn’t make up the gaps but would keep the project moving.

It comes as workers were evacuated in February after the memo says a monitoring system found a two-millimeter shift in a portion of the building.

Then in April, a section of the third floor collapsed which the memo says used the project’s contingency funds and has halted the current construction phase...according to the General Service’s Administration website.

A GSA spokesperson telling WTOC in a statement:

“GSA has worked diligently to develop a funding plan to complete the renovation of the Tomochichi Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, including addressing the floor system failure..”

“Wright Square isn’t what it used be. It isn’t open. It’s got signs and fences everywhere,” said David McDonald, the president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Downtown Neighborhood Association president David McDonald says he meets with the GSA monthly.

While he describes the project’s timeline as fluid, he’s confident funding will be secured for completion.

“They’ve assured me that they’ve identified funds within the U.S. current that it just requires a reallocation within the congressional budgeting process, which is not unusual.”

The memo says that the GSA is expected to send a refunding package for Congress’ approval this month. The GSA says the recovery efforts here are expected to be finished in October.

At that point, they say they’ll have more information to share on a revised project schedule.