Commons To Open Bids on Commons Before Remonstrance Resolved
The City of Columbus will open bids for the new downtown Commons Thursday, despite the fact final signature tallies on a remonstrance halting the building’s construction have yet to be released.
Mayor Fred Armstrong says the move is legal and early indications show the remonstrance will come out in favor of building the new structure.
Armstrong says he’s heard of eight to ten bids coming in from companies interested in the project. He expects the bids to come in well below the building’s estimated cost.
“This bid will not be anywhere close to $18 million because we haven’t got all the furnishes, fixtures, furniture, etc. in this particular bid package, although it’s there. This is just construction cost,” Armstrong said.
“If it comes in at 12 million dollars, people will say, ‘Oh! We saved six million dollars!’ No, we haven’t.”
Armstrong says construction costs are lower than when estimates on the Commons were initially made. He says the city may well spend less than $18 million, opening up the chance the city may use the left over money to pay other city debts or reduce the public’s tax burden on the project.
He says once idea being kicked around the mayor’s office is relieving a Parks and Recreation debt that could ultimately save the city money, especially in light of the public’s $9 million responsibility on the Commons.
“[With a] nine million dollar debt and a three million dollar debt, can we combine that to make a total of a nine million dollar debt. And reduce the debt service from the parks and get a great lower interest rate,” Armstrong said. “This is a lot to look at. And we’ll make sure it’ll come out at the end of the taxpayers at the end of the day.”
Private donors to the Commons have indicated they would like the city to consider returning some of their pledges to the project should construction costs dip below the original $18 million estimate. Armstrong says all pledges will go toward the Commons and will not be returned, as he says they were donated with no strings attached.
The city’s Board of Public Works will not award a bid on the project until late July.
Columbus Construction Policy Could Favor Unions on New Commons
If the City of Columbus wins its remonstrance and proceeds with plans to build a new downtown Commons, Mayor Fred Armstrong says the project will not go forward with a project labor agreement.
But non-union companies feel PLA’s place them out of the competition for city projects because they’re hesitant to agree to the provisions in the 30-40 page document.
The agreement would bind the construction company working on the building to specific terms that must be followed onsite.
Armstrong says the city accepts bids from union and nonunion companies, but the requirements in a PLA are similar to those which unions already have, such as paying prevailing wage to all employees.
Armstrong says past projects without project labor agreements caused problems for the city.
“These were pretty large projects. And they had really big problems with them. When you have a PLA, the way ours in written up, we wanted to make sure the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted to make sure there was no work stoppages and excuses for this and that. It’s quite extensive, the PLA is,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong says a months-long delay on the Commons due to a remonstrance on the project, coupled with multiple bids coming from companies outside the Columbus area, convinced him a PLA is essential toward preventing work stoppages and any of problems with the project.
He says, in the past, that wouldn’t have been the case.
“When times were good, you didn’t hear a whole lot about it. You know, well, times are bad and the market opens up a little. And now people are more concerned. The companies that are not bidding the PLAs, that maybe could but aren’t, are good companies I’m sure,” Armstrong said.
The city’s Board of Public Works will open the eight to ten bids at a meeting on Thursday.
A hotel planned for the same city block, which would attach to the Commons, is still on hold.
The hotel’s developer pulled the plug on the project’s groundbreaking after a remonstrance halted the Commons project.
Word on final remonstrance signature tallies are expect in the next two weeks, but some city officials speak only about the fact leaks from the county auditor’s office indicate their side won the contest.
The city will not award a bid on the project until the end of July.