August 7, 2013 9:58:52 AM
The Columbus City Council clarified how it intends to handle engineering services during Tuesday's regular meeting.
After a month-long period of ambiguity regarding the future of Neel-Schaffer as the city's engineering services provider, the council voted 4-0 to reappoint the firm on as "as-needed" basis.
Councilmen rescinded a vote initially passed July 2 to advertise for proposals from other firms, choosing instead to retain Neel-Schaffer in a scaled back role. Under the new arrangement, J5/Broaddus, chosen by the council to serve in the new position of project manager, will perform most of the day-to-day roles formerly handled by Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer.
Both motions passed unanimously, 4-0. Gene Taylor and Bill Gavin recused themselves from discussion and voting, citing conflicts of interest. Gavin said he had a daughter who is employed with Neel-Schaffer's Biloxi operation. Taylor did not specify his conflict.
The only discussion about either vote was about details of the new contract between the two entities, which city attorney Jeff Turnage provided.
The city will pay the firm the amount billed per task plus 10 percent, which is in accordance with the Mississippi Department of Transportation's federal audited rate. The contract consists of three categories of work. Type 1 services will be charged at an hourly rate as they were when the firm had more day-to-day responsibility and interaction with residents. Those services include consulting on various city infrastructure needs. Type 2 includes a scope of services and man-hours provided to city representatives. Type 3 services include the preparation of task orders and schedules not to exceed a lump sum fee.
In response to their new agreement, Neel-Schaffer and the city issued a joint press release after the meeting, specifying the firm would provide technical engineering assistance to the city when needed.
"We are located in Columbus and will continue to serve that community," Neel-Schaffer Chief Operating Officer Joey Hudnall said in the release. "However we can best serve Columbus and the community, that's what we want to do."
Stafford said the firm will continue to "serve the city with the same dedication and quality work Neel-Schaffer has provided to Columbus for nearly 40 years.
"It just won't be on a day-to-day basis," he added.
Mayor Robert Smith said he was "very happy" to move forward with Neel-Schaffer still in place as the engineering firm and with J5/Broaddus handling the day-to-day project management issues.
"We believe the two companies have an excellent synergy," Smith said in the release. "I have already had a few joint meetings with Joey, Kevin and representatives from J5/Broaddus and we have already observed that the two firms work well together, as we had hoped they would, in order to continue to advance they city's progress. We consider this to be a 'win-win-win.'"
J5/Broaddus officials were not quoted in the statement.
As in its previous budgets, the city currently has budgeted $150,000 a year for Neel-Schaffer's services, which the firm billed at an hourly rate. In the city's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, J5/Broaddus is budgeted to receive $90,000, with $60,000 being budgeted for Neel-Schaffer's services.
Councilmen will hold their second budget workshop today at 3 p.m. at City Hall.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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