New $17M police headquarters project may not go through traditional city bidding process

City commissioners recently approved a policy that gives them the option of building projects without going through the traditional bidding process. They may not wait long to use it.

City staff is recommending that the $17 million first phase of a new police headquarters building be constructed using a “construction manager at risk” method rather than the traditional low-bid method.

The construction manager at risk method calls for the construction manager to be selected on qualifications and best value, rather than using a competitive bid to select a contractor, according to the memo. The construction manager provides a guaranteed price before construction begins and is required to get multiple bids from subcontractors for all the major components of the project.

Assistant Director of Utilities Melinda Harger said there are several reasons the city may want to deviate from the standard approach. This is the first time the city will have built a facility specifically for police department use, and that function has a lot of very specific and technical details that require a high level of construction management, she said. She said those include special ventilation system considerations for evidence storage, security needs for investigations, as well as the phasing considerations.

“How can you best stub out for future phases and still have the layout, function and security aspects that you need?” Harger said.

A city memo states that benefits of the method include collaboration between designer and contractor throughout design; a fixed construction cost known during design; and potential reduction in the time to complete the project. Risks to the city include potentially conflicting interests because a single company would serve as both construction manager and contractor. The city would require subcontractor bids and an “open-book policy” to ensure that the city gets competitive prices for the work.

Earlier this year, the commission authorized the city to use methods other than the traditional design-bid-build should the commission determine that the alternate method is in the public interest. As part of Tuesday’s meeting, city staff is recommending that the commission find the construction manager at risk method in the public interest and authorize city staff to advertise a request for proposal for the design of the police headquarters.

In 2016, the commission approved $1.5 million for design and professional services for the police headquarters and last year authorized a property tax increase to raise $17 million for its construction. The headquarters will be built at 5100 Overland Drive, a city-owned property in northwest Lawrence, and Harger said that construction will start sometime next summer and take 10-12 months.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

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