$19.4 million contract awarded for courthouse
CENTREVILLE — In a 3-2 vote, the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners awarded Mullan Contracting Company the construction contract for the new Circuit Courthouse on Tuesday, June 14. Commissioners Steve Wilson and Robert Buckey voted against.
The county received bids May 24 from Mullan Contracting Company of Lutherville, $19,395,694, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company of Salisbury, $19,433,858. Both bids exceeded the building’s projected $16.7 million cost.
The contract calls for the demolition, site construction, utilities and building construction for the 41,600-square-foot courthouse to be located at 200 N. Commerce St.
Before the vote, the commissioners discussed ways to lower the cost of the project; however, to do so would mean starting the entire process over, cause a twoyear delay, and result questionable savings, according to staf f.
Wilson asked if it was possible to request three things of both the contractors: any value engineering the contract sees going into the project, “whether it’s $100,000 or $500,000,” be submitted; to submit a best and final bid; and to sign a no change order contract, “which means unless it is a systemic or aesthetic change authorized from the county they agree that the plan’s specs as presented to them for the construction ... they will meet,” Wilson said.
Value engineering, County Administrator Gregg Todd said, is when someone gives a contractor a set of plans and asks to see how much it can engineer it to get the cost down.
In order to complete those requests, Public Works Director Todd Mohn said a “cleaner way to do it” would be to reject both the bids, go back and ask for “substitutions or alternates” as allowed in the contract for cost savings to the owner, which in this case is the county, revise the contract documents and rebid the project.
David Remaniak, the county’s chief engineer, said in the early 2000s, the county rebid the Terrapin Grove housing project after bids came in high. He said the county rejected the bids and invited all the interested parties to attend a meeting to offer cost saving alternatives. Once offered, the county had to pay its architect for the change order to redesign the building and then it publicly bid the project again with the cost savings added. From the time the bids were rejected to the time a shovel entered the ground, Remaniak said it was about nine months to a year.
Mohn said if the face of the building and its looks were to change, the approval received from the Centreville Planning Commission would be forfeited. He said it would have to go back through the planning commission for approval to reevaluate the look of the building and where it sits on the grounds.
“We have the architectural bills associated with this. You have a committee that went through all this,” Commission President Mark Anderson said. “...It seems like we’re just going to take all that work, tear it all up, start over again and who knows when this is going to come to this point in the future. I’m going to guess probably not even in the term of this commission.”
Remaniak said it would take at least two years for a shovel to be in the ground if the commission went back to request those changes.
Jack Wilson requests were not added into the motion to approve the construction bid.
Plans for the courthouse were already revised to cut costs in 2014. The county originally budgeted $16.5 million for the project, but Beyer Blinder Belle Architects presented a plan for a 56,286-squarefoot, three-story building at a cost of $22.4 million in September 2014. The commissioners rejected that design and appointed a task force to work with the architect to make changes. In December 2014, the architects came back with a new design that reduced the square footage to 40,550, cut off an entire floor by eliminating underground parking and trimmed the height of the building. That design was the one bid on.
Commissioner Steve Wilson, who voted against awarding the bid, said he did so because of the amount of debt the county is adding with the project and the “unknown quantity” of future capital projects. Wilson said there are unknown amounts of school debt and other “demands on our capital system.”
He said he did not vote against it based on its necessity, though.
He said he has seen the county’s debt rise from $60 million to $110 million and now is edging closer to $140 million worth of debt.
“With a capacity of $150 million and with the fact ... the county has never in its history ever been able to get its debt lower, it just creeps up and up, but now we’re at the top,” Wilson said. “...I hate to be the guy that does that and I would prefer to give time to pay down some debt before we receive.”
The county commissioners also approved in a 3-2 vote the Public Works Agreement with Centreville for the development of the courthouse. Commissioners Steve Wilson and Buckey voted against the agreement saying they felt it favored the town too much.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners approved a $19.4 million contract for the construction of a new circuit courthouse Tuesday, June 14. Shown is rendering of what the new courthouse, to be located at 200 N. Commerce St., will look like.
Todd Mohn, right, director of public works, and David Remaniak, chief of engineering, review the two construction bids the county received for the new circuit courthouse project during the County Commission’s meeting June 14.