Douglas County Commission to hold public hearings on construction managers for jail expansion, behavioral health housing

photo by: Treanor Architects/Contributed Image

This rendering, shared with the Journal-World on Jan. 30, 2019, shows a planned behavioral health campus to be built in the 1000 block of West Second Street.

Douglas County commissioners voted Wednesday to hold public hearings for comment on the option to use a construction manager at risk method for two projects — the jail expansion and housing on the behavioral health campus.

Interim County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said statutes demand that the county “jump through hoops” to use a construction manager at risk, or CMR, method instead of the traditional design-bid-build process, even though the former is “probably the most common method of delivery today.”

The CMR method would provide the county a guaranteed maximum price for the projects, and Plinsky said in a memo to the commission prior to the meeting that it could increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the projects.

In public comment, Gene Dorsey, of Lawrence, said he thought it appeared from the agenda materials that there would be one construction manager for a combined project of the housing and the jail expansion.

“I thought the optics of having one manager for the two projects looked difficult,” Dorsey said, considering the different sources of funding the projects would have. The housing elements of the behavioral health campus will be funded by a combination of grants; the county has not decided on funding for a potential jail expansion project, nor approved any expansion plan.

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Douglas County could start process to seek construction manager for jail, behavioral health projects, Jan. 29, 2019

Plinsky clarified that the agenda memo did address both items, as they’ll both need to go through the same public process for consideration, but they will be treated as separate projects.

“I was trying to combine notice on this item since we’re doing the same thing for two separate projects, but on the 20th, there will be a public hearing on each and (commissioners will) need to make a determination on each,” she said.

The commission will hold the public hearings on Wednesday, Feb. 20. After that, commissioners will decide whether to move forward in the process and publish requests for proposals to find a CMR.

Plinsky reiterated that agreeing to hold public hearings, issuing RFPs and even awarding a contract for a construction manager at risk “in no way approves any of these particular projects.”

“It’s simply a process of allowing us to get a construction manager on board to be a part of our design and construction team as we proceed on both the projects,” she said.

• • •

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved spending $19,500 to cover costs for implementation of a mental health self-help app, myStrength, that county residents will be able to access for free. A grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will cover the other $22,000 for the first year’s subscription fee.

Bob Tryanski, director of behavioral health projects, told commissioners this is one of the smallest investments of all the behavioral health initiatives underway, but it could have a large impact. He said there are a lot of apps available to help people handle behavioral health issues, but myStrength pulls many tools together on one platform, without the subscription fees for individual users that many other apps carry.

“This would be free for Douglas County (residents), and the fact that everyone would be using it has tremendous power,” Tryanski said. He noted that primary care physicians, school employees, social workers and counselors could all point people to the app for help, particularly for those who aren’t ready to engage with a mental health professional or make a commitment for intensive treatment, he said.

• Agreed to formalize an agreement with LMH Health to reimburse the hospital $250,000 this year toward salaries and benefits of four behavioral health crisis clinicians working to support those who come to the emergency room for mental health crises.

• Approved giving a Baldwin City affordable housing project $45,000 from the economic development incentive fund as support for the project to seek a Federal Home Loan Bank grant of up to $1 million. The grant would help Baldwin Retirement Apartment Complex Inc. to renovate four buildings. The project is asking the Baldwin City Council to match the $45,000 from the county.

• Heard a report from representatives of the Food Policy Council and approved requested changes to the board’s bylaws. The request will also go to the Lawrence City Commission on Feb. 5.

• Approved some changes to fee policies for the Douglas County Fairgrounds, including clarifying when nonprofits would need to pay to use the facilities.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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