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Building Commission again debates project delivery

Paul Snyder
paul.snyder@dailyreporter.com

The state Building Commission on Wednesday broke into another debate over the state’s project delivery methods.

“It’s a mistake to delay the idea of changing the process,” said state Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield. “I won’t be voting for another waiver until we have the discussion.”

David Helbach, an administrator with the state Department of Administration’s Division of State Facilities and secretary of the state Building Commission, has worked for almost a year on recommendations for changing project delivery on state jobs. He has said for several months his recommendation is imminent, but Gov. Jim Doyle said at Wednesday’s meeting the Building Commission likely will not discuss delivery methods until August.

The state’s choice of project delivery is a point of contention between general contractors and subcontractors because Wisconsin’s longstanding preference is for multiple-prime contracts, which give all companies direct contracts with the state. Subcontractors argue in favor of multiple-prime because they have individual contracts with the project owner.

Under the construction-manager delivery method, a contractor works with an architect and engineer and negotiates a final price with the state. The UW System has argued it is a more effective method for building complex projects.

The UW System on Wednesday requested a project waiver for a construction manager to oversee construction of an estimated $27.8 million athletics facility and the estimated $100 million Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Building Commission approved the waiver on a 6-2 vote, with state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, and Kanavas objecting.

Kanavas said providing a construction manager on the projects can get a better value for taxpayers, the state could save hundreds of millions by completely changing the system.

Doyle said he agreed with Kanavas, but not with his vote, and offered an explanation for the delays in the Building Commission’s discussion about project delivery.

“This is going to be a real knock-down, drag-out fight when it comes forward,” Doyle said.

The UW System has requested construction manager waivers on multiple projects, including the under-construction Union South on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said although it might seem the Building Commission approves many such waivers, the UW System actually receives for requests to change the delivery than the system presents to the commission.

But Kaufert said he still has doubts about changing project delivery.

“We want to get the best value,” he said. “But (using construction manager) doesn’t seem to be as fair as the other process.”

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