By Eric Althoff
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Even though renovations to the main courthouse in Broward County, Florida, have been largely completed, taxpayers could be on the hook for an additional nearly $6 million, as a judge has said the new complex doesn’t have a courtroom large enough to host a “major” trial that could be attended by media, according to the Sun-Sentinel. County officials are supportive of the notion to expand a major courtroom, but questions remain as to where the funds will come from.
The “tower” addition to the county courthouse opened in 2017, the Sun-Sentinel reported, but with the 17th floor still unfinished. It is this floor, civic authorities hope, that can be utilized for a future trial that can accommodate some 250 spectators.
But even if the push goes forward on such a courtroom, it likely wouldn’t be completed in time for one of the area’s most anticipated trials: that of Nikolas Cruze, who is accused of the on Feb. 14, 2018, shooting deaths of 17 students — and the wounding of 17 others — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which is in Broward County. Authorities are hoping to get Cruze’s trial to commence in early 2020, the Sun-Sentinel report stated, but security concerns may outweigh the push for a larger courtroom in the time allotted prior to that trial.
The paper said that Broward County commissioners believe the county shouldn’t be on the hook for the cost of the new courtroom — which preliminary estimates place at some $5.6 million, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Several attempt by Correctional News to reach the public information office and various judges in Broward County for comment on the courthouse plan were unsuccessful.
The tower itself is part of an overall project for the county that includes renovations to two courthouse wings, parking garages and a public area. Such work carries with it a price of $345.6 million, according to the Sun-Sentinel.