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Bids on jail project could decide whether plaintiffs challenge commission's construction manager pick

Group in lawsuit to decide whether to challenge board's manager pick

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Money will determine the next move of the most recent plaintiffs who successfully sued Augusta over its purchasing practices.

On behalf of John Z. Speer Jr. and the Augusta-Richmond County Property Owners Assoc­iation, attorney Jack Long said a decision hasn’t been made yet to challenge the commission’s vote Tuesday to award R.W. Allen LLC the contract to serve as “construction manager at-risk” for the second phase of the expansion at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center.

Long said his clients wanted to determine which company proposed the lowest price for the jail project. If it were Allen, they most likely will not seek immediate legal action, Long said.

The commissioners voted 8-1 to award the contract in spite of a ruling by Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet that the method used to select construction manager at-risk to oversee the municipal building renovations – the same method used to select R.W. Allen for the jail project – violates city and state purchasing laws.

On Sept. 23, Overstreet granted a restraining order to keep the city from awarding a contract for the Municipal Building project. Overstreet found the city’s method is illegal because it ignored the law requiring competitive bids for all goods and services for public construction jobs valued more than $100,000.

Long said an amendment presented to commissioners Tuesday, which requires the construction manager at-risk to obtain competitive bids for all subcontractors’ goods and services, only goes half way to complying with the law.

The city still used subjective criteria, not objective reasoning, to select the construction manager at-risk, he said.

The city has been hiring companies to serve as a construction manager at-risk for major projects since 2005, about one year after hiring Heery International to oversee all of the special-purpose, local option sales tax projects. So far, taxpayers have paid more than $7 million to Heery.

When the judicial center’s building committee proposed hiring a construction manger at-risk in 2007 and 2008, Commissioners Marion Williams and Alvin Mason questioned why the job wasn’t put out as a regular competitive bid.

City Administrator Fred Russell recommended the proposal because he said it would speed the project and make it easier to control costs.

According to the American Institute of Architects, the construction-manager-at-risk system allows the client to hire a manager to begin working with the architect during the design phase. Once the design is complete or nearly complete, the manager gives the client a guaranteed maximum price of the project.

Cost has had little to do with how a construction manager at-risk has been hired in Augusta, according to city documents. For the municipal building remodeling job, price accounted for only 15 points of a possible score of 100 by the selection committee.

In April 2008, Jane Howington, the president of Augusta Library Board of Trustees, asked the commissioners to cut through the layers of construction management over the new downtown library.

Howington noted that Heery would charge $1.3 million to oversee the project that the architects and the construction manager at-risk were also overseeing.

When the issue of extending Heery’s contract came up later at the same meeting, Commissioner Joe Bowles asked: “If we approve the Judicial Center to go under a construction manager at-risk, why do we need another construction manager working on this at $1.4 million?”

Russell responded that “(Heery) represents me in all these meetings basically as we deal with the other construction mangers.

“They serve as our eyes and ears to make sure that we get the best bang for our buck in each of the projects we’re doing.”

Commissioners approved extending Heery’s contract in 2008 and again in 2010.

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G'ment Watcher
97
Points
G'ment Watcher 10/09/11 - 05:21 am
0
0
Having been involved in most

Having been involved in most of of the major construction projects in the city, I feel that the layers of management of these projects are too deep. If you hire a General Contractor or a construction manager at-risk, it should be his job to insure that all of the plans are followed by the sub-contractors. You then have either city inspectors, special inspectors, or architects and engineers who also inspect the project. Heery is definitely an un-necessary expense. If their job is simply to represent the city administrator as is quoted above, they are really a waste of time and money. Once the job has been let, I have never seen the Administrator at a construction site except for a ground breaking or other photo op and while Heery does show up from time to time, they never seem to do anythng or know what is going on. Leave it to our commissioners (not just the present ones since this has been an on going thing) to throw away 7 million dollars and cry the blues that the city needs more money. The Administrator is right when he said that "...we get the best bang for our buck..." although a prostitute would probably be cheaper.

Riverman1
93789
Points
Riverman1 10/09/11 - 05:34 am
0
0
So we are going to pay

So we are going to pay millions of dollars to make sure we are not getting ripped off? Are the contractors and architects we hired that untrustworthy? Can these construction managers at risk show us one incident where they found something that resulted in the county saving money? Just one.

Bob Munger
0
Points
Bob Munger 10/09/11 - 07:29 am
0
0
I can't speak to what is

I can't speak to what is happening now, but I give you examples worth tens of millions of dollars saved by Heery while I was Heery's Program Manager. Part of the problem we experienced was that they hired us and paid us big bucks, then our advice was too often ignored, or our authority was watered down due to politics.

At times I felt like a surgeon operating with plastic knives and forks.

Bob Munger
0
Points
Bob Munger 10/09/11 - 07:30 am
0
0
I can't speak to what is

I can't speak to what is happening now, but I give you examples worth tens of millions of dollars saved by Heery while I was Heery's Program Manager. Part of the problem we experienced was that they hired us and paid us big bucks, then our advice was too often ignored, or our authority was watered down due to politics.

At times I felt like a surgeon operating with plastic knives and forks.

Riverman1
93789
Points
Riverman1 10/09/11 - 12:16 pm
0
0
Bob Munger, thanks for the

Bob Munger, thanks for the insight. Still the whole set-up seems awkward to me. It appears you hire someone to build something and then tell them how to manage their business.

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