The construction schedule will be tight, but renovation of the former King Louie bowling alley should be done in time for advance voting to take place there in the primary and general elections this year, a county official said.
Groundbreaking on the site for the new Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The primary elections are Aug. 2 and general election Nov. 8.
The county commission set the construction schedule in motion last Thursday with its approval of the last bit of the contract with McCownGordon Construction to renovate the 1960s-era building. The commission added management services to the company’s construction contract, bringing the guaranteed maximum price of the building to $15.1 million.
The construction schedule was briefly thrown into doubt, however, because of some commissioners’ questions about the bidding process.
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Specifically, some said they had to cast their votes without enough time to consider specific bid information from each of the four companies that made the short list. Commissioner Michael Ashcraft, who has raised the issue on other contracts in the past, brought up the issue.
“I continue to be just flummoxed by the fact that we are not able to see the cost information so we can get a fair comparison,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft and some other commissioners have often noted displeasure with the way the county handles “requests for proposal” bids. In this type of bid, county staffers interview and rate bidders on their proposals, but do not make the information public until after the contract is approved because it is still in negotiation.
These types of solicitations differ from traditional bids on equipment, for example, in which the lowest price is the usual winner, county Director of Facilities Management Brad Reinhardt said afterward. A request for proposal allows more flexibility, in which the county can add other elements — such as experience — to the mix. It also allows the county to consult more about how a project should be done, he said.
In the case of the Arts and Heritage Center, four finalists were rated for, among other things, their approach and experience in this type of project, as well as cost. McCownGordon’s cost proposal for management of the project was second lowest, but the company outranked the others overall. The firm with the lowest price was ranked lowest when other aspects were included, said Commission Chairman Ed Eilert.
The price information is available to members of the commission before they vote if they ask for it, but is not open to the general public until after the contract is awarded.
Commissioners Jason Osterhaus and Steve Klika also voiced concerns over the process. Said Klika: “I think we need to look at the process not only for this but how we handle RFPs versus commodity type bid and how the commission is brought more into the loop prior to making the final decision.”
The first vote ended in a 3-3 tie, with Osterhaus, Ashcraft and Commissioner John Toplikar voting no and Eilert, Klika and Commissioner Ron Shaffer voting yes. Commissioner Jim Allen was absent. That threw the commission into a brief quandary about whether the construction could begin on time. Osterhaus suggested a week’s delay.
That was resolved after commissioners decided to look at the information during a recess and reconvene less than an hour later. The final approval was given with only Toplikar voting against.
The Arts and Heritage Center will remake what had been bowling lanes and ice rink into a new home for the county museum, community theater rehearsal and performance space and a place for the Johnson County Developmental Service’s Emerging Artist program, as well as for voting. The building has been vacant since 2009, and was bought by the county in 2011.
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