Vice mayor opposes the hiring of the design team and construction manager after raising concerns about staff’s plan to employ a project manager, as well
Thanks to two votes of the Sarasota City Commission, Sarasota-based architectural and construction management firms have been hired to design and oversee the building of the St. Armands Circle parking garage.
If all goes as planned on the city’s timeline for the project, the City Commission will vote in September on a guaranteed maximum price for the facility, the city’s general manager of parking, Mark Lyons, explained during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 17.
Only Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie opposed the hiring of the two firms, following a staff presentation that afternoon. Freeland Eddie indicated that she felt the use of a part-time project manager as well as a construction manager at risk (CMR) was redundant.
The project manager — who is a professional engineer — will receive $84,000 for a two-year contract, Lyons noted. No vote was required on that position.
“Construction would begin somewhere around January of 2018 and be completed no later than December ’18,” Lyons told the board on Jan. 17.
The facility — which will be located on the site of the north parking lot for St. Armands Circle — will contain four levels with 520 spaces, a parking management office and restrooms. The latter, Lyons told the board, “was also a key component of the construction project,” based on community comments.
City Manager Tom Barwin pointed out that the initiative also will entail the burying of power lines on John Ringling Boulevard from North Adams Lane to the Coon Key Bridge; “gateway” signage in the median of that road to assist drivers in finding the garage; and a right-turn lane onto North Adams Lane “that would expedite the movement of traffic off of John Ringling Boulevard,” to keep any backup of vehicles into the Circle.
The facility could prove especially effective, Barwin said, in terms of reducing the circling of drivers on the Circle in the effort to find parking spaces.
Officially, the commission voted 4-1 on Jan. 17 to hire Kimley-Horn and Associates to undertake the design of the garage at an estimated cost of $1,706,352, and then it voted 4-1 to engage Jon F. Swift Inc. to take on the role of construction manager at risk and the construction of a new water line in the vicinity of the garage. That firm will receive $255,527 for this phase of the project, the agenda indicated.
Material provided to the board in advance of the meeting says Swift’s pre-construction services have been estimated at $223,112, while its fee for construction services “is $615,250, or 5.75% of the total construction costs.”
Lyons noted that the firm’s president has assured city staff that his employees will work with the St. Armands Circle Association — the retail shopping district’s merchants group — to make certain traffic is managed as well as possible while the construction is underway.
The city water line project that originally was to have be undertaken separately, Lyons explained. However, “We decided that it might be wise to bring in the [construction manager at risk] on that to create efficiencies,” Mike DelRossi, general manager of the city’s Public Works Department, added. If Swift already were going to have a crew on site, he pointed out, it would be cost-effective to have the firm handle the water line work as well.
The CMR and the project manager
Freeland Eddie and Commissioner Liz Alpert both asked for an explanation of the difference between a construction manager at risk (CMR) and the project manager.
The CMR “is really the eyes and ears for the city to ensure that the architect is performing optimally … and to ensure that … good pricing [is achieved],” Lyons told them. The CMR also works to keep a project on schedule, he noted.
“Why is there a need [for the project manager] with the CMR in place?” Freeland Eddie asked.
The CMR works for himself, DelRossi replied. “The city, obviously, would like to overlook his work.” The project manager, DelRossi continued, will make certain that the design plans are being followed and that all the proper materials are used.
“Isn’t that what the CMR does?” Freeland Eddie asked.
The project manager will work for the city, DelRossi said.
It was her understanding, Freeland Eddie replied, that the CMR also would be watching out for the city’s best interests.
“Correct,” DelRossi responded.
“It seems like it’s either double duty, or we’re paying two people for the same thing,” she said.
“We are overseeing the purpose of the project,” DelRossi told her.
The main objective of the CMR is to work with the engineer or the architect to make sure that the project, as designed, can be constructed,” David Boswell, general manager of the city’s Purchasing Department, pointed out. “I’ve seen buildings [designed inadvertently] without doors in them,” he added, “but they looked really good on paper.”
The CMR, therefore, will make sure a building has doors in it, DelRossi said, and he will make suggestions that could save money on the project. The city relies on the CMR for his expertise, DelRossi added. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not going to miss anything.”
“The project manager is a qualified engineer,” Lyons said.
Under the guidelines of the city’s purchasing procedures, the CMR can perform only as much as 25% of the construction, Boswell told Freeland Eddie. Therefore, the CMR has to hire subcontractors to handle the rest of the work, and — again, under city guidelines — the firm has to obtain a minimum of three bids before choosing a company to take on specific aspects of a project. The CMR also guarantees the quality of the subcontractors’ work, he added.
The project manager will assist the city’s inspector with purchase orders and invoices, Boswell continued, “so that what is being built is actually being invoiced.”
When Alpert asked for clarification about the CMR’s handling part of the construction, Boswell reiterated the earlier point that the firm does some of the work itself and hires subcontractors for other facets.
If issues arise with the work or the contractors, Boswell added, the CMR has to handle that — thus the “at risk” part of the term. “He is completely responsible. … He’s the one we go to.”
Because the CMR also understands design and engineering, Boswell added, he is able to save money on a project.
One of the key positive factors about hiring a CMR, Boswell continued, is that the firm can prevent the “big change orders at the end [of a project] that cost us several hundred thousand dollars.”
Furthermore, DelRossi said, the CMR looks over the design and engineering work at the 30%, 60% and 90% marks, offering any comments about changes that might reduce costs, based on the CMR’s own experiences.
City Manager Barwin characterized the process as “It’s sort of [a matter of], ‘Trust everybody, but …’”
“It seems like we’re stuck on duplication of services,” Commissioner Susan Chapman pointed out.
DelRossi then explained again that the project manager will work with the city inspector to go over invoices to make certain that the materials called for in the plans are those being installed. “We can’t have the CMR review his own invoices.”
When Freeland Eddie inquired about the expense of the project manager, Boswell explained that the $84,000 the city plans to pay the person is a bit lower than the level of compensation typically offered.
Following the discussion, Commissioner Suzanne Atwell made the motions to hire Kimley-Horn and Swift. “We’ve been at this for so many years,” she said.
As for their explanation about a CMR versus a project manager, she told DelRossi and Boswell, “I think you were very clear, by the way.”