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Construction manager-at-risk method prescribed

Friday, August 30, 2002 by

The City Council voted 5-2 Thursday to proceed with soliciting construction bids for the new City Hall under the construction manager-at-risk method, with Council Members Will Wynn and Daryl Slusher dissenting. Until now, the city has awarded contracts using the lowest bid method, which was required by state law until the Legislature approved SB 510 last year.

In casting their votes, Wynn and Slusher cited the size of the project and the additional time that will be spent in choosing the general contractor. Slusher said he was also concerned about the rules for lobbying with this type of method. He urged staff to clarify those before the process gets started. The project is estimated at $30-$40 million.

Wynn wanted to know about the extra time the construction manager-at-risk method would take. Staff had planned to bring a bid to the Council in late December using the sealed bid method, but with the construction manager-at-risk method, it would not be brought before May, said Director of Public Works Peter Rieck.

Wynn said he was worried about the public perception of the project. “We could rent Intel’s barricades and just close that big hole up now for eight months until—it just so happens we have Council elections the week we might take them down next year. For a project that had been going so smoothly, on budget and on time, for us to mothball it now for eight months . . . It’s just going to be the issue for the press to compare our construction expertise to that of the county.” He added that he believes the construction manager-at-risk process is the appropriate one for the city to use in the future. “I’m still just very frustrated that even under the sealed bid we would have that construction site mothballed for 15 weeks,” Wynn said.

City staff had recommended the sealed bid process, but both the Council committee on minority- and women-owned business issues and the MBE/WBE Advisory Committee have endorsed the construction manager-at-risk model, which could add as much as 18 weeks to the solicitation phase. The competitive sealed-bid model preferred by the staff would add only five weeks to the process.

One benefit of the construction manager-at-risk delivery method is that the contractor can work directly with the architect during the design process. City staff would also have some input on potential subcontractors, who would be hired by the construction manager-at-risk. Subcontractors could be hired under a competitive sealed-bid arrangement. The construction manager-at-risk would be responsible for hiring those subs and making sure that they delivered the goods and services they promised. Under the old method, the city was responsible for paying the subs and making sure the project came in on time and within budget.

Council also directed staff to hire a consultant familiar with construction manager-at-risk to help city staff through the process.

Rieck said the garage portion of the project “should be substantially completed next week.” He said the architects are “just finishing up the design process . . . . We were conservative,” he said in estimating how much time the design would take.

Cloteal Haynes of the Black Contractors Association urged the Council to endorse the construction manager-at-risk even though the project may appear to take longer using that method. Haynes told In Fact Daily, “Time is not the only issue. We’ve been waiting forever to have the opportunity to look at issues other than price.” With the passage of SB510, she said, the city now has the tools “to do what we’ve wanted.” Haynes noted that the city has had goals for employing minority and women subcontractors for years but under the lowest bid method of awarding contracts, minorities were frequently left out of the process.

As to increased costs, Haynes said, “This process may be more efficient because it lends itself to fewer change orders. The construction manager can look at the design, along with the budget, to see if it reflects the marketplace.” She said an experienced construction manager would know whether the labor costs were realistic in this particular market. Designers tend to rely on published reports and existing programs to figure out projected costs. But those costs may be either higher or lower than the designer anticipates.

Construction manager-at-risk means the construction manager has the financial resources to carry the project, Haynes said, whereas under the lowest bid scenario any company could win the bid. The contractor would be required to show it had sufficient insurance and a bond to cover the project; however, the quality of previous work or experience would not be considered. “It gives you the ability to consider factors other than price. So, one of those factors is to encourage M/WBE participation. Now that the construction manager-at-risk is on board, we want to have a competitive sealed bid process for subcontractors,” Haynes said.

Frank Fuentes of the Hispanic Contractors Association said he was very pleased with the vote. He noted that Council Member Will Wynn had never raised the concern about additional time choosing the contractor when he was on the M/WBE Council subcommittee and added, “We respect him tremendously.” Wynn stepped down from the committee when Council Member Betty Dunkerley joined the Council.

Walter Brown of Faulkner Construction Co. told In Fact Daily, “Construction manager-at-risk is a good deal for the city.” He said that in the long run the city would save time using the construction manager-at-risk method.

City manager says he does not dispute amount used

Even though they voiced support for fining the City of Kyle more than $100,000 for overpumping, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board decided last night to postpone action until they know the full extent of the overpumping. The district’s fiscal year ends Saturday. After that, staff can figure out how much extra water the city took from the aquifer. Between September 1, 2001, and July 31, 2002, Kyle pumped 113 million gallons—more than twice as much as the city’s 55 million-gallon permit would allow.

“Enforce the rules as they’ve been written,” said Board Vice President Bill Welch. Other board members echoed his sentiments but decided to wait until October to make a decision. Until then, district staff will meet with Kyle city officials, come up with options and check the original agreement between the city and the district.

Kyle City Manager Thomas Mattis said he wasn’t there to dispute the amount. “We regret the amount, but it wasn’t avoidable. If this fine is warranted, we’ll pay it, but we’re certainly open to negotiations.” He also said that while general demand for water service has gone up because of the increased population, two of the three wells the city uses for water were out of operation during most of the summer, thus overpumping the district well. The other two are outside the district. He said they expect to get surface water from San Marcos and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority within the next two weeks.

Board Member Craig Smith asked Mattis if he planned to ask for an increase in their pumpage permit. Mattis said he didn’t want to appear “too cavalier” and wanted to settle the overpumping question before asking for more water.

Board Secretary Jack Goodman said he understood the city and the district agreed Kyle would pump water from the district for only two years. During those two years they were supposed to tap alternate sources of water. He added that at the time it was a good faith, neighborly thing to let them have water even though Kyle is outside of the district.

Neighborhoods must reapply for inclusion next spring

Northside residents were happy and relieved after the City Council approved the front yard parking ordinance on Thursday by a vote of 5-2. “We were surprised that we got a couple of votes we thought we might not, but we always thought it would pass,” said Linda Moore of the North Austin Civic Association. That neighborhood group had been working for the past two years on the ordinance with Council Member Danny Thomas. “We appreciate the effort Mr. Thomas made for us,” said NACA member Angela Baker. “He stuck his neck out to stay with us when he was getting a lot of opposition.” Supporters of the yard parking ordinance also had praise for new Council Member Betty Dunkerley’s efforts.

Most of the debate among Council members revolved around procedures for allowing neighborhoods to opt in or out of the parking ban. An amendment to the ordinance crafted by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman requires notarization of a submission by a neighborhood association. Neighborhood associations also must include a copy of their bylaws and a statement that those bylaws were followed when the vote was taken, along with information about the number of people voting and the number of eligible voters. Those procedures, Goodman said, were important to prevent abuse of the process. “There are fears from many neighborhoods that a small group of activists are going to decide for them,” she said; however she expressed a hope that the debate spurred by the ordinance would lead to an improved level of cooperation among different groups. “More than one neighborhood association sometimes claims a specific area of the neighborhood,” she said. “This is an opportunity to start having associations speak to other associations and work out those boundary disputes.”

According to Dunkerley, the choice of whether a neighborhood allows front yard parking will eventually be part of the neighborhood planning process. “This whole ordinance will basically go away over a period of time as the new neighborhood plans are developed and as the old neighborhood plans are amended,” Dunkerley said. “At that time, this parking ordinance will be addressed as any other tool in a neighborhood plan.”

The ordinance adopted Thursday night contains a list of 64 neighborhood associations that sought to enact a front yard parking ban. But they will also be required to reapply in February of 2003, with a review and vote by the full City Council in April. The ordinance also contains a sunset provision, requiring neighborhoods who wish to ban front yard parking to reapply every three years. Six neighborhoods are on record as opposing the yard parking ban

Council Members Raul Alvarez and Daryl Slusher voted against the ordinance. Both expressed concerns about the process by which neighborhoods apply for the restriction and the possibility it might be abused. Alvarez offered a substitute motion to require neighborhood associations who wished to ban front yard parking to collect a petition from 20 percent of the affected land-owners. Although Slusher offered a second to that motion for purposes of discussion, he later withdrew his second, noting that the amendment had insufficient support for approval, and the motion died.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Stacy Dukes-Rhone has been appointed to the Zoning and Platting Commission. She was nominated by Council Member Danny Thomas to occupy the position on the ZAP formerly held by Vincent Aldridge . Dukes-Rhone has previously served on the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Redevelopment Advisory Group and is a former Capital Metro board member. Other appointments from Thursday: Texans for Public Justice attorney Cristen D. Feldman will serve on the Urban Transportation Commission; Marilyn Bostick is approved for a spot on the Parks and Recreation Board; and William King Brown will serve on the Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities . . . Back to the drawing board . . . The City Council took the unusual step of sending a case back to the Zoning and Platting Commission yesterday. Property owners had been requesting commercial services zoning for their tract at 9530 U.S. Hwy. 290 East. The ZAP had recommended the zoning with a number of conditions, including a prohibition on cocktail lounge uses. The land is next to a flea market that has generated complaints from neighbors. APD Lt. Calvin Smith told the Council there had been 49 collisions at that location since 1999. The ZAP did not have that information when they made their recommendation. On a motion from Council Member Daryl Slusher the Council voted unanimously to send the case back to the commission. The Council approved on second reading only a zoning change at 4604/4610 Teri Road to allow for retail uses. Some neighbors have opposed the change because the proposed use is a convenience type grocery. Other stores owned by the same applicants have received unsatisfactory health department inspections. . . . Firefighters lauded . . . Austin's first three African-American firefighters were honored at Thursday night's Council meeting. Willie Ray Davis, Nathaniel Kindred and Roy Greene were hired on September 2, 1952. Of these, only Davis is still alive, but poor health prevented his attending. Relatives of the men had praise for the department but also called for the city to boost efforts to hire African-Americans. “That marvelous and vibrant flame that was just ignited fifty years ago is rapidly growing dim for African-American firefighters in our city,” said Cora Wright, reading a message from her father, Willie Ray Davis. At present, fewer than 6 percent of the city's firefighters are African-American. The department has set aside $1,480,995 in the 2002-03 budget for recruiting, a slight increase from last year . . . Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce awards. . . Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant, Washington Mutual and Dell Computer won awards for commitment to community service. In the category of customer service, Automation Plus Systems, Catapult Systems and National Instruments took top honors. The Innovative Business awards were given to Infoglide Software, the Haynes and Boone law firm and Grande Communications. American YouthWorks received the Chamber’s first award to a non-profit organization for commitment to the community. Keep Austin Beautiful was the runner-up in that category . . . Stratus advisory group reaffirmed . . . The BSEAD board approved reviving the Technical Advisory Committee to study the possible interlocal agreement with the City of Austin to monitor water quality controls on land at Circle C owned by Stratus Properties . At the next meeting, each of the members will be allowed to nominate to the group one person who is an expert in geology or engineering.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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