By Michelle Armstead
Williamston Post staff writer
A contract awarded to Dansville-based Laux Construction for the City Hall Expansion Project, putting the Williamston Police Department one step closer to moving from the 1500 Building, was approved Feb. 25.
However, there was a dispute at the City Cuncil meeting over the $470,000 design-build approach that Laux Construction would take in the expansion.
“There is no contract in here for the public to review for public information on the design and build contract,” said Councilwoman Michelle Van Wert.
Pete Porciello, chairman of the Economic Development Corporation, said that the approach calls for hiring a project manager, not for the project to be built, and that there is a misunderstanding on what a design-build contract is.
“All the bids will still come in and the bids will be reviewed,” said Porciello. “But what happens is, the person who they hire oversees the entire project on behalf of the city, according to the city’s direction, instead of the city manager overseeing the project” with the Department of Public Works (DPW), an organization that brings sanitation, engineering, transportation, and water and sewer services to the community..
Public Works Director Scott DeVries said that the city council’s familiarity with the design-bid contract is the reason why Van Wert was skeptical of the new approach, which is said to be faster.
“With the design-build approach, a design team is formed to work with the construction manager and the design professional,” said DeVries. “With the design-bid contract, there’s a contract with design professionals and one with the general contractor and sub-contractors.”
Laux Contraction has presented the project in a way that there would only be one contract for the city to issue, instead of two.
“We don’t have the design put together yet. It’s part of the process to work together as a team,” added DeVries.
During the design process, under this approach, the discovery that the budget can be kept under control by changing an input that would be more efficient can be resolved without needing more money.
“It gives us the ability to keep control on the overall project budget without having to go back to council to say we need more money,” said DeVries. “(City Council) is the only one who can approve of more than the contract amount.”
Van Wert called the approach “putting the cart before the horse.”
The $470,000 contract includes a $35,000 contingency budget, which provides compensation for things such as estimating accuracy and other issues that may occur during the project.
Awaiting the relocation is Travis Fritts, of the Detroit Brewing Company, who wants to open a micro-brewery in Williamston.
“In July my company met with the chief of police to talk if the EDC is willing to sell,” said Fritts. “In October we started going to EDC and city council meetings.”
The micro-brewery hopes to bring 20 jobs to the community.
Fritts bought the building for $500,000, and following positive results from city inspections the building will be ready for him to move in.