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2013-04-18

Commishes approve 'Plan B' for animal shelter

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

After a disappointment from an earlier request for proposals for construction of a Bandera County Animal Shelter, architect Kenneth C. Burns presented commissioners with a Plan B that he virtually guaranteed would jumpstart the project.

In spite of advertising efforts, Burns received only a single request for proposal for the project. A construction company out of Florida via San Antonio noted they would complete the proposed shelter for $800,000 - more than four times the amount previously budgeted.

During the Thursday, April 11, meeting of commissioners court, Burns called the amount "astronomical," an opinion reiterated by Judge Richard Evans. As Burns explained, "Sometimes, a construction firm sees governments as having deep pockets. If they know they're the only bidder on a contract, they'll throw out big numbers out to see if they stick."

"Well, it didn't stick," Evans replied dryly.

To keep the project within budget, Burns recommended hiring a construction manager agent. Creating this managerial position would enable the county to construct the shelter and still stay within budget.

"We can get the critical pieces together and build out the shelter later as funds become available," Burns said. "The county will contract individually with all trade contractors. This will be more work but will give you more flexibility."

Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris indicated that individual contracts could save the county as much as 20 percent on shelter components. "By using a construction manager agent, we can shave off markups on the metal building, concrete and plumbing," Harris said. He and Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson serve as point men for the project.

As an anecdotal example, one local contractor, who spoke to Harris off-the-cuff, was particularly scornful of the $15 per square foot concrete slab charged by the San Antonio contractor. "He said he could do it for $7," Harris told the court.

Burns noted that using a construction manager would also save the county bonding requirements since the various construction components would not meet the required dollar threshold. "You can also select a construction manager without a bidding process," Burns said.

Apparently, the only requirement needed for a construction manager agent is to be covered by professional liability insurance.

(Another requirement would hopefully be to have some knowledge of the construction business.) Additionally, the person selected is prohibited from participating in the actual construction process. "The manager will definitely 'manage'," Burns explained. "He reports to me and I report to the court. It shifts the burden to you and me."

Eschewing profession journals, commissioners decided to advertise locally for the position. "If you advertise with trade groups, you'll get applicants from San Antonio and Austin. They'll have no vested interest in Bandera and will charge a lot more," Burns said.

Wilkerson said, "We have a lot of retired locals who might be interested in this job."

Concurring, Evans added, "We have a lot of competent contractors here, too."

When asked if going this route would make the shelter happen, Harris quipped, "Definitely, this is going to happen." Glancing around, he added, "You've got two commissioners and an architect working on it!"

Pictured: Architect Kenneth Burns, center, will supervise an as-yet-to-be-selected construction manager agent for Bandera County's proposed animal shelter. He is flanked by the project's point men, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris, left, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson.