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Hays County Commissioners Ponder Project Manager

Thursday, December 4, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

Hays County Commissioners have spent the last two weeks in court wondering aloud how best to proceed hiring a project manager for the recently passed $207 million road bond. While each commissioner is content with the ubiquitous Prime Strategies handling the “pass through” roads – the highway projects which demand close coordination with TxDOT and which will eventually be reimbursed – the commissioners are still trying to determine how they will set up a project manager for the rest of the so-called “priority roads.” Despite having two weeks to ponder the issue commissioners have yet to take action in regard to what a future Request for Qualifications may entail.


Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley has advocated a more direct approach; last week this seemed to mean that each commissioner would be in charge of the roads in his or her own precinct. This week the conversation seemed to veer toward having two other project managers in addition to PSI.


The commissioners also considered placing some of the improvements in the hands of County staff under the leadership of Jerry Borcherding. Conley told In Fact Daily he believes that “we have three or four county projects that, with some assistance by subbing out some of the work, we can handle internally.” He specifically mentioned Post Road and Lime Kilm; Dacey Lane and 26 (Old Bastrop). “The Commissioners are very familiar with the county road system as is the county road department, obviously, and we’ve managed those types of projects every year within our budget. This would just be expanding our scope… I think breaking it up could give us some efficiencies and save the taxpayers dollars and allow us to provide a better, higher quality product faster and cheaper.”


Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said that such an impromptu discussion may have put Borcherding on the spot and she told In Fact Daily that she wanted to hear from his own staff before really considering how she would lean. “I had thought maybe two project managers might be able to move projects along further, just divide them from the western and eastern pats of the county but I’m really open to [all the options] – I just want to look at what works best for us.” She said that it would be didfficult for her to make a decision before hearing more from Borcherding’s staff and the new project manager position he is looking


Judge Liz Sumter said “I think I’m leaning toward Commissioner Conley. I do believe he has the right most efficient idea because no matter what we pay the program manager, it’s usually a percentage, it won’t cost us more. I think it will be more efficient and there won’t be any vying for time between commissioners and those kinds of things.” She didn’t think that there would be a project manager for each precinct.


Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton told In Fact Daily, “we agreed that we wanted to have a clearer idea of what we wanted before we go out for an RFP.” The County is also going to hire a public information officer and Barton speculated that they would be able to handle part of the RFP, which requires a constant web presence updating the projects for the public. “My suggestion was rather than going out for individual RFQs, having one RFQ that would invite environmental firms, structural bridge firms, drainage firms, geotechnical firms, roadway design firms would all submit just in their area of specialty and we would pre-certify them at once.” This would enable the county to save time and money by getting all the RFQs out of the way at once instead of having to pause throughout the process. “It allows us to look at the big picture,” he said. “Instead of just hiring firms we’re going through a public process. Under the professional procurement act, a lot of counties simply hire the firms without the public competition.


Conley pointed out that by breaking down the workload it would give smaller and presumably local firms a chance compete. Such a scenario would inevitably cut both ways for commissioners in that they would keep money in the area but expose themselves to charges that they were simply favoring friends in the consulting and engineering companies – a charge which some of the commissioners have been accused of in the past. Barton said that by openly discussing the process, rather than resorting to the public procurement act, commissioners and citizens had the advantage of transparency. Barton said he didn’t think there would be a firm for each precinct because “you lose your checks and balances and efficiencies of scale.”


Another issue at stake is how to streamline the mountains of paperwork which will soon inundate the county auditor’s office. Sumter suggested that should multiple project managers be brought together they all be required to file the same invoices and paperwork. She told In Fact Daily it would be important to “make sure the reporting process is exactly the same across the county.”


Commissioners have said that in the two weeks until the next meeting on December 11 they will be discussing and evaluating the various options  Requests for Qualifications for companies who may be interested in constructing and planning some of the county-wide infrastructure projects recently.

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