February 21, 2014 11:25:27 AM
Last July, the Columbus city council voted to create the new position of project manager to oversee city projects. That position went to Jabari Edwards and his J5/Broaddus firm. It did not escape anyone's attention that Edwards has close ties to mayor Robert Smith: Edwards served as the mayor's campaign manager.
In defending not only the position, but the council's choice of Edwards and J5/Broaddus, Smith said then that the move would save money by bringing more efficiency into the process. He said the firm would be involved in every step in the process.
"The project manager is like your eyes and ears on any project that comes to the city," Smith said. "Your project manager is going to make sure that your engineering firm is doing what it's supposed to do."
Since that controversial move, there has been one city project -- the renovation of the Trotter Convention Center -- which remains in a state of limbo five years after the city and Lowndes County officials agreed to a deal that would have the county largely fund the building the Columbus Soccer Complex while the city would cover the costs of a Trotter renovation, originally estimated to cost in excess of $2 million.
The Columbus Soccer Complex was completed in September of 2012 at a cost of $4.2 million.
The Trotter Center?
We're still waiting, and we are likely to be waiting a long while.
We are also still waiting to see the benefits of hiring J5/Broaddus as project manager.
Earlier this week, the city confirmed that the bids submitted by contractors far exceeded the $1.65 million construction budget. In fact, the lowest bid -- submitted by Weather's Construction -- was $3,371,000, more than double the budget. Smith said the city will not re-bid the project, for reasons that should be obvious: The disparity between the construction budget and the costs to do the work is laughable.
Since J5/Broaddus came in to be the "eyes and ears" of city projects, the firm has been paid $30,000. The firm is paid a flat rate of $90,000 per year plus 6 percent of project costs.
What do we have to show for it? Essentially, a worthless engineering plan and lots of unanswered questions.
When we voiced our concerns about the city's decision to hire a project manager back in July, we wondered if the only thing that would really be added would be another level of bureaucracy. We had hoped that J5/Broaddus would prove those concerns unfounded.
Given the fiasco that we have seen with its involvement in the Trotter Center renovations, there is nothing to indicate that our initial concerns were unfounded.
If anything, those doubts have been magnified.