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Troup County construction contract debated before commissioners

At the Troup County Board of Commissioners Work Session on Thursday night, an hour-long debate transpired over a construction contract for the county Agricultural Extension Office. County staff defended the application process and delivery approach amid questioning from commissioners and competing contracting firms.

The contract in question is construction manager (CM) at-risk services for the extension office, which is planned to be built at 2168 Pegasus Parkway. The county received five proposals after sending out a request for qualifications (RFQ). A five-person committee met and evaluated and scored the qualification packages. The committee considered firm ability, experience, management plan, services, schedule and fee pricing.

Though the contract was not awarded at the work session, it is on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. The committee’s recommendation was to award the contract to River City Contracting of Fortson, Georgia. River City received the highest score from the committee and had the lowest estimated cost at $151,225.

The project itself has a budget of $1 million. Commissioners asked some questions about the choice to use CM at-risk.

CM at-risk is a delivery method that differs from a hard bid. The firm selected to provide CM at-risk services serves as a consultant to the owner (the county) in the design development and construction. The CM at-risk also oversees subcontractors to get the project built. In a hard bid, the owner and architect complete the project plans before advertising a bid.

Scott Allen, the architect on the project, said a hard-bid approach on a smaller project like this “open[s] the door for unqualified contractors,” while the CM at-risk method “gives you ultimate flexibility and accountability.”

The selected contractor and the county will agree on a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) — if the project runs over that price the contractor assumes the extra costs. The Troup County Fire Administration building was planned with the same method and was built on-schedule and under-budget, Allen said.

Jay Johnson of Principle Construction, whose bid was rated third best, said the cost estimate they submitted was lower than what the committee listed. Leon Moody, also with Principle, questioned why his firm wasn’t rated higher in the firm ability category, saying they had plenty of experience with similar projects.

The discrepancy in estimated cost was explained by Anderson, who said each firm submitted different timeframes. Because part of the cost was overhead per month, firms that submitted shorter timeframes, as Principle did, would have produced lower estimated costs.

The committee, then, decided “let’s put in one singular timeframe, and try to make them kind of apples to apples,” Anderson said. Anderson added that the RFQ did not contain enough information for each firm to come up with accurate timeframes, so an estimated average timeframe of 5.5 months was the best approach. Principle’s had estimated the schedule at 4 months — others were as high as six months.

Patrick Spinks of River City, the winning firm, said the schedules provided by firms were basically an educated guess, and that taking an average was the “proper way” to do it.

Anderson also said that Principle proposal was missing a page on which each firm was supposed to list certain fees. The county called Principle to inform them of the mistake, and Principle emailed the county the missing page.

David Hawkins of Freeman & Associates, another firm that submitted a proposal, said he accepts the results of the bidding process. But he also said the county should not have allowed Principle to submit missing numbers after the deadline.

“That should have been kicked out immediately,” Hawkins said. “I think you’re in violation doing that, if you were to accept Principle’s bid number.”

The county will award the bid at the next meeting.

Other items were discussed, to be voted on at the next meeting.

The solicitor’s office is requesting to lift the hiring freeze for a part-time assistant solicitor. The position is budgeted.

The sheriff’s office is seeking approval to receive a grant from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. There is no match requirement for the grant.

Finally, parks and recreation is asking for a budget amendment to pay a repair bill after they had to spend about $35,400 to make repairs to the indoor pool system at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center.

“Pipes on the roof were damaged,” Purchasing Director Diana Evans said. “Nobody had any idea, when they said it needed to be repaired, what the repair cost was going to be. And when the bill came in it was not good … much larger than they expected.”