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Lee Commission to revisit library project

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Commissioner Bill Williams' frustration was apparent Tuesday night as he questioned architects Sonya Spalinger and Bruce Richards about the recently opened bids on the county's proposed library/conference center project.

Noting that Doraville-based apparent low bidder Hensler and Beavers' bid of $4,803,578 was almost a million dollars more than the $3.9 million projected budget for the library/conference center, Williams demanded an explanation from the representatives of SRJ Architects.

"We relied on your expertise, and frankly I'm disappointed," Williams, an accountant, said. "You told us you based your projected budget on a cost of $135 a square foot, but I figured this bid at $175 a square foot. I'd like an explanation of how you missed the mark so badly."

Spalinger, the project's lead architect, said engineers' suggestion that a graded aggregate base be used under paving work at the site and additional costs of the "hospitality-type" conference center -- especially in the lighting and electrical work --were chiefly responsible for the higher costs.

"And why weren't we approached about this before the bidding process?" Williams asked. "According to my figures, the cost of this project is coming in at $1.2 million more than you'd projected, including $88,000 more in your costs."

Spalinger said SRJ had designed a building "that everyone wanted."

"Of course, we can redesign the project," she said. "But we designed it the way we were told everyone wanted it. If we redesign to get to that original budget, we're probably going to have to cut the square footage."

Richards, the project architect, told commissioners they could accept Hensler and Beavers' bid, work with the low bidder on "value engineering" that would cut costs, or could ask for a redesign and rebid, which would delay the project as long as six months.

Commission Chairman Ed Duffy asked Spalinger why the project's size had been increased from its original 26,672 square feet to 28,396 square feet.

"We started out designing the conference center to seat 300, but we were asked to increase the capacity to 400," she said. "There were other changes that we discussed with Mr. (Alan) Ours (the former county administrator who started work in Glynn County Monday)."

Duffy said the county would have to "revisit" the project, which is being funded through $2 million in special tax funds and $2 million from the state budget.

Also at the meeting, Chad Slaughter with J. Smith Lanier told commissioners the county's health care plan is running below budgeted costs for the year, thanks largely to a small number of large claims in the first six months of the plan.

"Last year, the county had 12 claims of more than $25,000," Slaughter said. "In the first six months of this year, there have been only three."

Southwest Georgia Regional Commission Executive Director Dan Bolinger outlined the plan for a proposed regional transportation tax that will likely go to state voters in August of 2012, and Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander recommended that the county utilize EMC Engineering to design the Westover Road Extension from Ledo Road to Fussell Road. EMC's $31,280 bid for the project was the lowest of three proposals.

The Commission voted to allow Public Works Director Mike Sistrunk to go ahead and use money in his budget to purchase mowers that would be utilized to cut grass along rights of way in the county, and they started the meeting by honoring the members and coaches of the Lee County Sharks, who recently won the 3V3 national 12-under soccer championship.

Members of the team are Grayson Booker, Claire and Nicole Morrow, Alaina Lewis, and Ashley and Aubri Hughes. Team coaches are Robbie and Jodie Brogdon and Lennis Price.

Before the Commission meeting, the county's Parks and Recreation Authority, which is made up of the five county commissioners, voted unanimously to recommend that Uel Kemp be appoined general manager of the county-owned Grand Island Club. Authority members also approved a motion to hire retired GM Vic McKinley part-time for a period of 60 days to help Kemp transition into the position.