VALDOSTA – Rumors of dissatisfaction with the county’s decision to use Peter Brown Construction Inc. for the at-risk construction manager of the Lowndes County Judicial Complex sparked discussions between Peter Brown Construction, the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners, Cauthan Construction, and The Valdosta Daily Times editorial board Monday.

Cauthan, a local company, is partnered with Peter Brown for the pre-construction marketing phase of the complex.

County Commission Chairman Rod Casey said he received calls from individuals in the subcontracting business who said they feared they would not be able to work in the community because of the project. He said there was a lot of misinformation circulating about the way Florida-based Peter Brown used teaming agreements to secure a local partnership. Of particular concern was a portion of the agreement that offered the local partner $25,000 in reimbursement if the company failed to get the bid for the Judicial Complex.

Peter Brown faced competition from Pinnacle Prime Construction, a local company, with the two companies being closest out of five companies who bid for the project. Both companies made presentations to commissioners at their May 8 work session, and Peter Brown was chosen by a 2 to 1 vote at their May 9 meeting.

John Stewart, Peter Brown vice president, said the $25,000 reimbursement would come out of the 5 percent construction management fee, or the profit the company will receive from the $14.5 million project. Pinnacle Prime’s bid included a 3.5 percent fee, a difference of more than $200,000.

Stewart said the $25,000 reimbursement had no effect on the company’s asking a higher fee, and he said the

company’s savings in the way of value engineering would bring them in around $1 million lower than projected on the completed project. Peter Brown is the company that is currently also building the first phase of the Lowndes County jail project, and Stewart said the judicial complex and the second phase of the jail would coincide, thereby saving money by having personnel in place to manage both simultaneously.

Cauthan Construction accepted Peter Brown’s teaming agreement, but stated they are not receiving a $25,000 reimbursement fee. Instead, owner Chuck Smith said the company is using Peter Brown as a mentor for at-risk construction management and the two parties agreed to a lesser reimbursement if Cauthan should not win the bid for the project. Smith declined to say the amount of the fee.

Casey said a copy of the teaming agreement has circulated throughout the community since mid-March. The evaluations for the five companies were not completed until early April.

The copy, presented to Brooks Welding, went unsigned by owner Jerry Brooks.

Stewart said Peter Brown presented teaming agreements to Brooks Welding, Quillian Powell Construction and Cauthan Construction. He said teaming agreements are commonly used when out-of-town companies want to win governmental bids and need to secure local support. He said Quillian Powell did not sign as they were supporting one of the Atlanta companies in the bid process.

Walter Elliott, county attorney, said the agreement is legal, and is common practice in the construction industry. Part of the county’s criteria included a demonstration of local involvement, and Stewart said the partnership between Peter Brown and Cauthan helped to fulfill that aspect of the criteria, as Cauthan will be helping to direct the subcontracting bid process, taking place in late June.

Commissioner J. Edgar Roberts, who cast the dissenting vote on the selection of Peter Brown, said he nominated Pinnacle Prime because they were a local company and would generate the most money into the community.

“The people in this city and county have the ability to do this project,” Roberts said.

Billy Smith, CEO of Pinnacle Prime, said the company is unaware of any rumors circulating about the dissatisfaction to use Peter Brown.

“Our employees live and work in the county, and we want to continue living and working in the county,” Smith said.

Cauthan owner Chuck Smith said teaming agreements are a part of networking, and that is how companies work.

“Whatever is floating around, it’s a shame to put tarnish on this process,” he said.

The Judicial Complex has been a concept since 1994. It took a few years to get the ball rolling, and when commissioners initially drew up plans and asked for bids, it was at a time when construction costs were low. The initial drawing called for a judicial complex and an administrative wing.

The process was halted when hydrocarbons were discovered on the land, and in 2004, a company was called in to clean up the residue. In this time, construction prices went up. In 2005, bids came back much higher than commissioners anticipated and caused them to reject the bids and look at hiring an at-risk construction manager who would guarantee the project’s completion at $14.5 million. County officials elected to drop the administrative portion and focus only on the judicial complex.

The at-risk construction manager works to get most value out of a dollar, Elliott said, and the county oversees bidding of projects. At any time, county officials can reject a bid because of cost or quality.

The five companies who responded to the at-risk construction job filled out forms detailing the businesses’ standing and a number of items involved in building the judicial project, including general experience, at-risk construction manager experience, governmental entity experience, qualifications of key personnel, proposed fee structure, proposed schedule, local business participation, plan and terms of agreement. On a 100-point scale, proposed fee structure was worth 35 points; qualification of key personnel was worth 20; and general experience was worth 15 points.

A five-person committee comprised of Commissioner Roberts, three county engineering department staff members and one person from the county’s purchasing department, ranked Peter Brown the highest with 461 out of 500 points. Pinnacle Prime came in at a close second at 458 points. The narrowness caused commissioners to ask for presentations from both companies.

In the presentations, Peter Brown listed the Leon and Pinellas County Judicial Complexes and the Madison, Seminole and Lafayette County Courthouses among projects. The company listed over 100 projects for government clients.

Pinnacle Prime listed projects including the Holiday Inn, Comfort Suites, Bazemore-Hyder Stadium and Forrest Park Church of Christ.

Commissioners G. Robert Carter and Richard C. Lee said they chose Peter Brown because the company had the most experience with projects of this nature and could offer savings in the way of value engineering.

Stewart said Peter Brown hopes to break ground on the project in August.

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