That was what then President Judge Freederg piously promised, in transcribed testimony, when he sought Northampton County Council's approval for his courthouse expansion, back in 2001. Court Administrator James Onembo made the same pledge, too. He told a skeptical council, no less than three times, that there would be no cost overruns.
They must have had their fingers crossed.
County controller Steve Barron, in a report to county council, reveals that the actual cost of this project, as of May, is $45,083,563, roughly $2 million more than was originally budgeted. Construction manager Alvin H. Butz has been paid $4.6 million for its oversight, $1.2 million more than expected. Architect RicciGreene has also been paid about $1 million more than originally projected.
How did this happen? Yo yo yo, what's the dillyo?
According to Barron, the project was "not adequately monitored by the County." Most of you probably figured that, but how did that happen? The county's engineer, Steve DeSalva, has a pretty good explanation, and Barron attaches it to his report.
DeSalva claims the "protracted length of the contract" caused construction management and engineering fees to balloon dramatically. This could have been minimized had Butz used a standard construction tool, CPM (Critical Path Method), which enables a construction manager to identify untimely completion of one work activity and its effect on everything else. Butz also failed to set completion dates on contracts, which "provided a disincentive for contractors to complete their work in a timely fashion." There was no Clerk of the Works to ride herd over the architect and Butz. That's a role that Onembo and DeSalva, by default, eventually assumed.
DeSalvo also notes something he calls "design oversight," which sounds like a polite way of saying the architect screwed up. This occurred both in the roofing contract and the rotunda. It ended up costing the county about $700,000. Amazingly, the architect still wants $79,000 from the county.
So basically, the reason this courthouse expansion is $2 million over budget is because Butz and the Architect were milking the job and the county never had someone looking over their shoulders until Stoffa was able to steal DeSalva from Bethlehem.
You can read Steve Barron's report, which includes DeSalva's memo, here. The Morning Call's Joe Nixon also has a detailed account.