02/21/11 — County seeks legislation to speed up construction

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County seeks legislation to speed up construction

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 21, 2011 1:46 PM

A local bill is expected to be filed in the Legislature that would give Wayne County the option of using the design/build concept for future capital improvement projects.

Commissioners last week authorized county attorney Borden Parker to contact state Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, and ask him to introduce the measure on behalf of the county.

Currently design-build is not among the procedures that local governments are allowed to use for projects. Traditionally, bids are let and awarded for the design phase of a project followed by awarding bids for the actual construction.

According to the Design-Build Institute of America website, the concept is that the owner, in this case the county, would contract directly with a single entity that is responsible for both design and construction services for a construction project.

The idea is that a single entity and contract would provide one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion.

According to the site the process streamlines project delivery and saves money and time by "transforming the relationship between designers and builders into an alliance which fosters collaboration and teamwork."

"The design-build difference is you get the architect and contractors sitting down at the table together," Parker said. "You put out proposals and you select somebody. The state has done this on several things. I think quite often they do it on college campuses. They have done it on prisons.

"Some counties have done it with local legislation for a specific project. We do not have a specific project in mind and (County Manager) Lee (Smith) wants to know if you would consider asking the Legislature for the authority to do that."

Smith, who is recovering from foot surgery, did not attend the board's Tuesday meeting. Commissioners are expected to review the county's proposed capital improvement plan in March.

Local bills have to be introduced by mid-March and Parker said he has been told that in order to get the bill in the county should start the process now.

"It (design/build) is purely an option," he said. "It does not force you to do it. It just gives you a different tool that you do not have now. The board of commissioners will make the decision. The expectation is that you could get a better product doing that."

Commissioner Sandra McCullen questioned Parker as to how long such that option would be in effect. Mrs. McCullen said she asked the question because she did not think the county would not want a limit.

The county could ask for a specific time limit even though it would not have to, he said.

The disadvantage of design/build in some people's mind is that the county probably would hire a "big firm" to do the job and might keep some of the smaller firms from participating, Parker said.

"If there are thoughts like that in the Legislature the fallback position I would recommend is to put a time limit on it," he said. "Say do it for five or six years to see how it goes. Then if it works well try to get it extended.

"My recommendation first would not to have any time limit on it."

Commissioner Jack Best said that the county has a number of pending projects -- schools, a jail, Health Department and Services on Aging -- and that design/build would be another tool for the county to utilize.

"Some things (project designs) look good on paper, but just don't work," he said.

"I think what Jack is saying is that you've got the architect and contractor sitting down at the same time," Parker said. "So the architect who thinks this is the perfect way to do it, the builder says that is not right.

"They are setting down together and instead of the contractor having to go back to the architect to say we would like to substitute what you have in here it is made up front. It saves time and there should be a whole lot less change orders and things like this which ultimately saves tremendous amounts of money."

Commissioner Steve Keen agreed that it puts the contractor at the table with the architect to "assimilate information" that would be beneficial to save those dollars.

However, smaller operators that would like to have a bid presented to them so that they give a price wouldn't be able to because they were not at the table," he said.

Parker agreed that is a disadvantage.

"That is in general, but the subcontractors would all still be very much involved," Best said. "The subcontractors are usually the people who would take on the smaller jobs.

"Small contractors would not take on a $40 million jail or a $30 million school. They just wouldn't."