August 30, 2014 10:43:19 PM
How much money J5 Broaddus may have saved the city during its first year as Columbus' project managing firm isn't known, but the man who runs the company says the savings exceed the $90,000 flat rate paid to it during its first 12 months of work.
Just over a year ago, councilmen contracted with J5 Broaddus for the firm to oversee city projects and public works tasks. The contract stipulated that the firm would be paid a $7,500 monthly retainer, plus six percent of the costs of projects it took on for the city.
Those special projects -- the ongoing $2.2 million Trotter Convention Center renovation and debris clean-up after April tornadoes -- earned the company an additional $81,220, according to Milton Rawle, the city's chief financial officer.
The firm is also set to be paid four percent of the cost of a 2014 ward-by-ward breakdown of infrastructure needs throughout Columbus. While it has not yet been paid for that project, the firm is expected to earn $200,000 from it.
At least one councilman told The Dispatch that while J5 Broaddus has brought positives to the city, the $171,220 already paid for its services is too much.
"They've done a pretty good job at what they've done," Ward 6 councilman Bill Gavin said. "They've brought to the table some things that we did not have before, (but) we've got a department head for public works (Casey Bush) and then we're paying $90,000 a year to J5 to supervise."
Earlier this year, a J5 Broaddus study of the city's public works department revealed a potential $1 million in waste because of lack of employee productivity.
Gavin, who last year voted against the city contracting with J5 Broaddus, said while that study showed councilmen a deficiency that should be addressed, "I'm just not sure it's worth $90,000."
In previous years, the city budgeted about $150,000 annually to Neel-Schaffer, a local engineering firm under contract with the city. That figure was scaled back to $120,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
The idea, city officials said, was that J5 Broaddus would take on some of the non-engineering duties Neel-Schaffer had performed for the city in the past.
The city paid $71,830 more this fiscal year, with both J5 Broaddus and Neel-Schaffer under contract, than it did the previous fiscal year, when only Neel-Schaffer was on hand to assist the city.
Ward 5 councilman Kabir Karriem voted in favor of hiring J5 Broaddus. He told The Dispatch last week that to make a true assessment of the firm's effectiveness, more time is needed.
"I think they still have some more things that they're working on to make certain departments inside the city work more efficient," Karriem said. "I know it's one year later, but we're still evaluating and assessing. My sole purpose for voting for J5 Broaddus was it was supposed to save the city some money and we were supposed to get the same service."
Robyn Eastman, senior project manager with J5 Broaddus, said that while the Trotter renovation, spring storm clean-up and ward infrastructure study are projects the firm got paid to oversee, the retainer is also benefiting the city in ways that do not show up on a calculator.
"A lot of business experience is being brought to the public works department," Eastman said. "You're getting some very qualified project management on your infrastructure and we're reducing costs on the project."
The firm also managed the FEMA operation that came to the city following the April tornadoes that struck east Columbus.
"In the final accounting, when (FEMA) delivers the large bucket of money to the city, that really was put together because of the documentation that was provided by J5," Eastman said.
He also noted that the firm has done some management work on renovation of the City Hall building at no charge.
The city's contract with J5 Broaddus does not have a renewal clause, only a termination agreement stating that either party can end the agreement by providing a 30-day advance notice.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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