More areas using design-build process

Nov. 7--TOMPKINSVILLE -- Monroe County magistrates wrestled with understanding the design-build concept over the last two weeks while trying to choose a contractor for construction of the Monroe County Family Wellness Center.

The Monroe Fiscal Court received $3 million through the Kentucky General Assembly's adoption of House Bill 308 in 2006 to fund the construction of a second building for the wellness center. The building is to house a six-lane swimming pool, a cardio fitness area and support facilities.

At first the fiscal court advertised for competitive sealed bids for the project. Magistrates received three bids. Jeff Arnold with Arnold Consulting Engineering Services Inc. of Bowling Green pointed out that one of the three bids lacked sufficient information to be considered for the project, he recommended magistrates reject all bids and readvertise the project.

Instead of asking for competitive sealed bids the second time, magistrates asked that contractors submit design-build proposals.

Monroe Judge-Executive Wilbur Graves said the magistrates chose the design-build process the second go around because of the time frame the county had on project funding.

"We've got to have our final draw by June 30," he said.

The monies are set to expire June 30, 2010. There has been some question among county officials as to whether the county could get an extension on the deadline. Nick Cook with the Barren River Area Development District told magistrates at a recent fiscal court meeting that an extension was possible, but that it would be something the state legislature would have to approve.

Graves spoke to other judge-executives about the design-build process before that option was chosen for the wellness center project.

"It's just a quicker process and plus, they all seemed to like it," he said.

Design-build is not a new process for choosing a company for a construction project.

"It's just new to our area," he said.

Rich Ornstein, an attorney with the Kentucky Association of Counties, said design-build is becoming more common.

"I think maybe 20 years ago you didn't see design-build proposals," he said.

Ornstein said a design-build proposal gives county officials a way to "compare apples to apples."

"I think it gives a little bit more discretion and gives counties a little bit more money to play with," he said. "When you do a procurement, you're basically looking to compare different items, which ought to be listed in the RFP (request of proposals), and do a comparison where the local government can get the best dollar value while also supplying the best building or equipment. You obviously look at more than just the price."

Laura Milam Ross with the Kentucky League of Cities said cities tend to operate under one of two bidding procedures for projects that cost more than $20,000.

"Either the general bidding statute, which is KRS 424.260, or the Local Model Procurement Code, which is found in KRS 45A.343 to 45A.460 and has to be specifically adopted by ordinance to apply," she said. "Each statutory scheme has its own requirements and exceptions. Under the general bidding statute, a city is not required to accept either the lowest or the best bid, as long as it's clear there is no evidence of fraud, collusion, or any other abuse of discretion in acceptance of a bid."

Under the Local Model of Procurement Code, the city usually needs to accept the lowest or lowest evaluated bid price form a responsible and responsive bidder. Under either bidding procedure, if a bidder failed to provide necessary information, a city could be justified in rejecting the bid."

KLC officials are aware that many Kentucky cities use the design-build process.

Monroe County officials did not use the design-build process when choosing a contractor for the construction of its new judicial center. Construction of the new judicial center has yet to get underway. Groundbreaking has been set for Nov. 30.

Instead of using the design-build process, a construction manager was hired to over see the construction of the building. An architect was hired by the county's project development board. The construction manager will only tend to the actual building of the structure and not the designing of the building, he said.

With the design-build process, the company chosen is responsible for both the design of the building and the construction of the structure, Graves said.

Hart County magistrates also went with a construction manager when building its judicial center.

"I'm pretty sure that the justice center projects all have to be through a process that the Administrative Office of the Courts have created in Frankfort where the allocated amount is set by AOC and managed by a local Project Development Board under AOC control," said Hart County Judge-Executive Terry Martin. "It is unique and was created by the General Assembly and all newly constructed justice centers fall under this category."

Allen County officials are in the process of constructing a new justice center. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Nov. 12.

Like Hart County, Allen County magistrated opted to go with a construction manager for its justice center.

"We asked the contractors and or construction managers to come in and do a presentation and then we selected, I want to think it was three to come back and do another proposal. We, as a board, chose the one that was best qualified to do the work we wanted. That was based on experience, cost estimate and the ability to perform the duty on time," said Allen County Judge-Executive Bobby Young.

There is no preference between sealed bids or design-build, Young said.

"It's six, one and a half dozen the other. There's very little difference in them. When you are doing sealed bids you basically take the lowest and best price and you get to talk to one or two of them about what they are really going to go," he said. "With a construction manager when you have it open. You get to ask them all kinds of questions (like) 'who is going to be your superintendent, how your sub contractor is going to work, are you going to take the low bid, are you going to use local people if you can.' We felt the construction manager was the best route to go."

Editor's Note: Read the article The Door Is Wide Open For Design Build for more information about the design-build process and how it can benefit a construction business.

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