Dr. Phillips performing arts center: Records raise questions - FOX 35 News Orlando

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Records raise questions about arts center construction spending

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Construction is well under way on the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, but a look at the books provided to the city is raising questions about the amount of oversight of the project.

PCL Construction is the company building the Arts Center, and they spent $20,000 at the insistence of the City of Orlando to do a study on what is under the ground at the construction site.  PCL Senior Project Manager Clint Jackson described what they looked for.

"Certainly bottle dumps, human remains, any thing like that kind of things that comes across. We tend to find old structures and things underneath the ground in this part of the world back from the Spanish settlements and stuff."

Did they find anything of cultural significance at this site?

"We did not.  The site was nice and clear."

The Arts Center will also spend $21,000 on security badges for the site.  Though simple badges can be made using a photo and laminate for less than 50 cents apiece, Jackson says there is much more to it.

"The badges are one component of it; however, it's the software and the computer systems and the support equipment."

The Arts Center stores information like a worker's skill level and qualifications, plus if they choose, medical records. They call it a worker safety issue. Tea party activist Matt Falconer told FOX 35 that he does not believe anyone, other than the city's accountants, is watching the spending on this $383 million project.

"What I tell people all the time is ... it is not wasteful spending when you're on the receiving end."

The city has insisted on having, and has received, millions of dollars in the project reserved for local contractors and sub-contractors as a way to provide jobs and business for city workers. Falconer believes people should pay more attention.

"Our government has become a conduit where special interests can take money from the taxpayer. It's the Arts Center, it' the arena, it's the rail system, it's the corporate welfare system. The average taxpayer is being exploited by the political system on both sides."

The Arts Center though has consistently polled as the most popular of the "big three" venues, ahead of the Amway Center and repairing the Citrus Bowl.  Jackson said they are monitoring costs closely, and this project falls right in line with other arts centers around the country they have built.

"There's nothing outlandish, nor different, with this one, It's certainly unique, but from a cost standpoint, everything is in line with the ... other areas that I've seen, other centers that I've seen around the country."

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will need to raise $70 million before the entire project can be finished.  Today, approximately 215 people work on the construction site daily, and $185 million has already been spent or awarded in contracts.


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