Negotiations to continue on public safety complex project
by Paige Rentz
The City Council has changed its mind about changing its mind.

Council members decided Tuesday to proceed in contract negotiations with Brasfield & Gorrie to act as the construction management firm for the city’s public safety complex. The alternative would be to publicly bid out the project to a general contractor.

Council members waffled about the decision throughout the two-and-a-half hour meeting, but eventually agreed upon staying the current course.

“I’m back and forth every day,” Mayor Johnny Smith said of the decision. “If you had asked me this afternoon, I’d say general contractor.”

By the end of the evening, the mayor said he was still a little nervous about the city using a general contractor because of Alabama’s bid laws, which would have required the city to take the lowest responsible bidder. It means the city wouldn’t know the final price of the project or which contractor would run it until the bids were returned.

Stephen Franklin, a vice president and division manager with Brasfield & Gorrie, told the council that the new $1.37 million figure is an all-inclusive lump sum that pays for the firm’s work in the planning and design phase and overseeing the project on-site once construction begins. He also said the firm would not have any additional consultants the city would be required to pay for, something the mayor and council members had been concerned about in prior versions of the contract. As Brasfield & Gorrie is a firm that also bids on projects as a general contractor, Franklin said his team would take a similar hands-on approach as the construction management firm.

Christopher Kramer, regional vice president with the firm, said that Brasfield & Gorrie will provide leadership for the various subcontractors on site and watch carefully for potential problems during the pre-construction phase to prevent change orders and other issues during construction.

Councilman Jonathan Tompkins favored this pre-construction review and design collaboration with the city’s architects but asked the mayor to explore a split contract during negotiations so the city would have an out if they chose another management method for the construction phase.

Councilman Truman Norred, who said he was nearly evenly divided over the two courses, ultimately decided by a slim margin that going with a construction manager is better because “you know up front who’s going to be running the show.”

The City Council voted in July to use a construction management firm for the project, an alternative that allows the city to hire a firm as a professional service outside of the public bid process. The council ultimately chose Brasfield & Gorrie after a couple of rounds of proposals and interviews.

At a Nov. 13 work session, however, the City Council decided against using a construction manager for the project because of concerns over costs and other items in the second draft of Brasfield & Gorrie’s proposed contract.

But Council President Mark Jones informed the council members at their Nov. 19 meeting that he and George Lord, director of facilities at Jacksonville State University and a member of the city’s public safety complex construction committee, had met with representatives from Brasfield & Gorrie earlier in the day and granted them an opportunity to make one final plea before the council. The council also delayed approval of final project design and authorization for the architect to begin preparing construction documents pending a decision on the construction process.

Mayor Smith will now work with Brasfield & Gorrie for what council members hope will be a third and final contract document, which he will review with the city’s public safety complex construction committee before the council’s Dec. 10 meeting. Any final contract must then be approved by the City Council.

Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.
© 2012