February 28, 2014 10:09:22 AM
Construction bids for a Trotter Convention Center renovation were double the project's budget, so the city of Columbus will be its own contractor.
City officials confirmed Thursday that the city's project managing firm, J5/Broaddus, will be its agent and hire subcontractors for individual components of the project.
In September, councilmen set a $2 million project cost for renovating the facility. The bulk of the funding, $1.65 million, was set aside for construction, while J5/Broaddus was to receive 6 percent, or $99,000, of construction costs. The project's architect, Major Andrews IV, was to receive $80,000 for his design services and a $126,000 contingency fund was also worked in. Fees-in-lieu from Columbus Light & Water will be used to pay back the $2 million loan the city took from the Mississippi Development Bank.
On Feb. 10, the city opened bids from three contractors for construction work. They ranged from $3.3-3.8 million.
J5/Broaddus' original role was to ensure the general contractor hired kept costs within budget constraints. In its expanded role, the project managing firm will not receive additional compensation, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said. The firm will still receive $99,000.
Renovation projects were initially to do some exterior work including the addition of outdoor restrooms and some interior work, which was to include a new elevator, as well as updated flooring, tile and sound system. Smith said the project has been prioritized and that the elevator may be removed from the list of improvements if construction funds wear thin.
"I think the elevator was listed at $170,000, so we're just pulling that out for right now," Smith said.
The best option
During what Smith described as informal meetings in the press release, he said moving forward with Trotter renovations with the city as its own contractor was the best option to ensure the project will still be completed in budget. The mayor intends to formally ask the council to approve J5/ Broaddus to act as its representative throughout the process when it meets March 4.
"Of course, we will still follow the public purchase law, but hopefully proceeding in this fashion will allow the city to complete the project in a more cost-effective and efficient manner," Smith said in the release.
Councilman Bill Gavin said there was agreement that prioritization was needed to ensure the most important upgrades were still guaranteed while the ones that weren't as necessary would happen if money was left over.
"Looking at the paperwork, there was a good bit of profit built into the general contractors fee, which I understand. They're in business to make money," Gavin said. "We're going to act as our own contractor to save the citizens some money that we can get a little more done with. We're going to ask for a resubmittal of bids on an individual basis instead of one project altogether ... so we can look at those bids when they come in. It may come back that we might could do a lot more than we thought we could do."
Andrews and Eastman did not respond to calls requesting comment. Eastman said in the press release that Broaddus & Associates, the Texas-based firm local businessman Jabari Edwards partnered with to create J5/Broaddus, had previous experience representing municipalities on construction work.
"J5/Broaddus has a long history of overseeing this sort of project, and I look forward to working closely with the mayor and city council and Major Andrews to ensure they get a quality project, completed in a timely fashion and done at a reasonable cost," said Eastman.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY