Shawnee Dispatch

Shawnee council approves contracts worth $235,000 for chamber remodel

A rendering of the new design for the city's council chambers. Enlarge photo

August 11, 2015

The Shawnee City Council approved construction and technology contracts for the complete remodel of the Shawnee City Council chambers Monday despite concerns about costs, even after the proposed plan had been effectively killed.

City staff had recommended to the council that the city sign contracts with Turner Construction and SKC for the construction and technology contracts worth a maximum of $235,000. Several council members voiced repeated concerns about the price and Council Member Dan Pflumm moved to have the entire thing put on hold so city staff could re-evaluate the project and bid out aspects of the construction in search of savings.

His motion, which passed 4-3 with Jim Neighbor, Jeff Vaught and Mickey Sandifer voting against, essentially directed staff to re-start the entire process and to hire a new architect because the design for the previously proposed plan was proprietary to Turner Construction. Although the city paid $23,000 for the design, Turner Construction maintained the rights to that design.

As the council meeting was about to end, Vaught brought up the topic again asking for clarification as to what the city was supposed to do.

“We already spent $23,000 basically on a plan that we’re going to now throw away?” Vaught asked.

City Manager Carol Gonzales said the city would likely have to start from the drawing board again based on the motion because they would not be able to use Turner Construction’s design.

At this point, well after Pflumm's motion had passed, Council Member Brandon Kenig said he misunderstood the motion and asked that the council re-vote on the matter. Kenig said he was in favor of bidding out certain aspects of the project but didn’t realize it would waste the $23,000 already spent on the project.

“I’m concerned that we’ll have a greater project cost overall now,” Kenig said.

Stephanie Meyer echoed Kenig’s misunderstanding of the motion and voted to reconsider the original plan.

The plan to remodel the council chambers began in 2014 when the council approved a budgeted amount of $235,000 for the project. The city then bid out a design-build project that Turner Construction and SKC eventually won.

The design-build process was approved unanimously by the City Council earlier this year, but Pflumm took issue Monday with the design-build formula for getting good value out of the project. He said that the estimated cost to remodel the room should be much lower. He argued that the savings from taking the project out to bid with more construction firms would outweigh the $23,000 already spent on the project.

“There are so many other options out there that are more economical,” Pflumm said.

He and Jenkins have repeatedly voiced concerns about aspects of the remodel that seem unnecessary in their opinion. Jenkins said the $3,200 budgeted for a new Kevlar, bullet-proof, dais was a “want” more than a “need.” The entire construction of a new dais will cost $35,000. Jenkins said the city could use a lot of the money for storm water system improvements rather remodeling the chamber.

“I can see in real terms the various important needs that this won’t allow us to address,” Jenkins said. “I‘m not opposed to the idea as much as the timing.”

Pflumm and Jenkins did agree that money should be spent on audio-visual technology upgrades to the room, which has not been remodeled since 1990, to improve usability. The plans include the installation of four 72-inch flat-screen TVs in the room, the improvement of the audio system to allow better online streaming and potentially future online video streaming of meetings, among other things.

A representative from SKC spoke at the meeting and acknowledged that the city might be able to save some money by bidding out certain aspects of the project but also said change orders would prove to be a much larger expense than anticipated. Vaught also argued that change orders, which could be made by a contractor once construction began seeking increased funds for unanticipated costs, could cause overall costs to skyrocket beyond the budgeted amount of $235,000. He added that there is also the possibility that the project comes in under budget.

“This plan actually does protect taxpayer money because it provides a maximum cost figure,” Vaught said.

In the re-vote, the council voted 5-2 in favor pursing the contracts with Turner Construction for the remodel. Pflumm and Jenkins voted against. The council then voted 7-0 in favor of pursuing the technology contract with SKC.

Council member Mike Kemmling, who has voiced opposition to the costs, was absent for Monday’s meeting.

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