Task force develops design, build strategy for city gym
The Community Recreation Task Force is honing in on choosing an architect and construction firm to manage the building of the municipal gymnasium project.
Committee member Dan Breen said the task force is rigorously researching the least expensive yet effective models to design and build.
“This facility will be in the community for generations, so it needs to be done right,” said Breen. “Every dollar counts.”
After hearing a presentation from Burlington firm Carl A. Nelson & Co. Tuesday on the pros and cons of different delivery models, the facility planning subcommittee resolved to recommend the city hire a construction manager instead of a general contractor to oversee the building of the facility. The committee plans to present a formal proposal to the Fairfield City Council during its Dec. 17 meeting.
The two facilities, an outdoor pool and gym, are estimated to cost $10 million to build. And while Fairfield citizens approved the city to enter into a $3 million general obligation bond for the projects, Breen said the magnitude of private fundraising required will ensure the city builds the new facilities in the most economical way.
“We’re under a tremendous amount of pressure to raise the money, so we’re looking for the most efficient way to do this,” said Breen. “There’s no question of our intent.”
As of last week, area businesses and groups had pledged $1,367,850 toward the project, with $150,000 from 1st National Bank. The finance subcommittee hopes to raise the needed funds by April.
While city bonding is contingent upon the task force raising the additional $7 million needed to complete the projects, the task force has some remaining city funding to carry out preliminary design for both the gym and pool.
For the pool project, the city has chosen Burbach Aquatics Architects & Engineers, but has not yet selected an architect or construction firm for the gymnasium.
Breen said choosing an architect for the recreation center is imminent, but will depend first on deciding on a delivery method. The subcommittee’s preference to opt for a construction manager came on the tails of a Tuesday presentation from Tim Seibert, president of Carl A. Nelson & Co., which oversaw building the new Jefferson County Health Center, Great River Medical Center in Burlington along with many gymnasiums across the state.
Seibert explained construction managers are involved with all stages of the facility, including design.
Construction managers would recommend an architect and work closely with the firm throughout the planning process. A general contractor, on the other hand, would have no interaction with the architect and would simply execute the plan provided them, he said.
Seibert cited a study done by Penn State University, showing collaboration between architects and builders resulted in a less expensive facility, which took less time to build. He said it also reduces change orders.
For Breen, the most convincing part of the presentation came from learning about the relationship of the design stage to the final cost of the project. Seibert explained a construction manager’s awareness of building cost, and its ability to work with the architect to do value saving design.
“By the time you begin building, 90 percent of your ability to affect the cost is gone,” said Seibert.
“The most important thing to me, as a layman, was learning that cost savings are built into project during the design stage,” said Breen.
Carl A. Nelson & Co. experienced this principle first hand while building facilities for the Great River Medical Center, Mercy and Eastman Plaza. Seibert said his firm was able to save time and money as a construction manager for the Mercy Plaza. By planning more efficient use of steel with the architect, the firm reduced the shell cost of Mercy by 5 percent, saving $132,000 in steel materials, and finishing the project 12 weeks ahead of schedule.
The task force also expressed interest in hiring local builders for the job. While Seibert said the city can tailor packages to suit local capacity and capabilities, he said they must by law accept the lowest bid for each project.
Breen said this will leave the city less control over the building companies involved.
“We would like as many local contractors as possible,” said Breen. “It’s important to know when getting started on the bidding process we have to take the lowest qualified bidder.”
Breen said he hopes the community understands the task force is trying in earnest to build a quality facility at a low price.
“There’s a perception with public buildings that they’ll do whatever they want,” said Breen, “not in this case. We will do what’s right for as little as possible.”