August 21, 2013 10:27:45 AM
City leaders Tuesday gave the contract to renovate Columbus' downtown convention center to Major Andrews IV, a local architect who started Major Design Studio earlier this year.
Andrews' firm will be paid $80,000 to design the Trotter Convention Center's renovation. That fee represents four percent of the $2 million the city budgeted for the downtown facility's facelift. The amount budgeted for actual construction is $1.65 million.
Councilmen want the Trotter to receive an exterior makeover, have the interior re-worked, update the sound system and Internet capabilities and have new bathrooms built in the patio area. Depending on costs, though, some of that might not get done.
Andrews' first order of business is to evaluate the prices of different products to keep the project from running over budget.
"We're going to have to step back on some things and see where they want to put the most money," he said. "That's what we're going to have to figure out -- which items are more important -- and do a list. We'll work towards that list and see what we can come up with."
The contract gives Andrews four months to design an approach to the renovation. After that, the city will find a construction firm through 45 days of open bidding. The firm chosen to carry out Andrews' design will have nine months to finish the job, according to the contract.
The project is slated to be done by the end of next year.
The city initially selected Bryan Brown & Associates to design the renovation. That firm, which said it could not agree with the city on fees and the project's budget, withdrew earlier this month. That led the city to choose Andrews.
A Columbus native, Andrews received an architecture degree from the University of Tennessee in 2002. He worked at firms in Jackson and Georgia before moving back to Columbus to become project manager at Major Construction Company, which his father owns.
He started Major Design Studio in January. The Trotter's renovation is the second contract his firm has been awarded. The first was for the construction of a gymnasium in Macon.
While Andrews will be paid to design the makeover and a general contractor will be paid to do the actual work, a company councilmen hired to be Columbus' project management firm will also be paid by the end of the project.
J5/Broaddus, which the city hired in July, will receive $99,000, or six percent of the construction cost.
Robyn Eastman, a senior project manager with Broaddus & Associates, which partners with J5, said the nearly six-figure fee that J5/Broaddus is receiving is equal to what the city is saving by using the firm to oversee the project.
"One of the things we bring to the table is we're going to do independent cost estimates during the design process," he said. "The design process goes through schematic design, detailed design and then on to construction documents."
Each step of the way, Eastman said, J5/Broaddus will make its own cost estimate to ensure that the construction costs do not exceed $1.65 million.
"We're going to do an estimate that's going to be so close to what a general contractor is going to bid that there will be no surprises," he said.
The project's overall budget includes $126,000 worth of contigency funds.
The city is paying for the project with a loan from the Mississippi Development Bank. To pay the loan and its interest back, the city will use a fee that Columbus Light & Water will pay to the city for 15 to 20 years in place of property taxes.
The city must advertise three times its intent to use this type of repayment plan before it can be implemented.
According to the city's contract with the Mississippi Development Bank, the plan -- which councilmen approved without opposition Tuesday -- is slated to be authorized on Sept. 17.
Before the regular meeting, the council held a fourth session on next year's budget. Several representatives of the 21 organizations the city appropriates funding to asked for more money for the 2014 fiscal year. No action was taken on appropriations, and the council will soon schedule another meeting to make those decisions. See a recap of the appropriation session in Thursday's edition of The Dispatch.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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