Methods Vary in Tulsa County Construction Projects

From Tulsa County by RON PETERS
Tulsa County Commissioner

The citizens of Tulsa County understand that from time to time the county, school districts, and cities need to rebuild, restore, or construct new facilities to better serve the public.

Whether it’s a large project such as the Arena or a smaller community project, it will be an expensive, yet necessary endeavor.

Once the voters approve funding of the facilities, it then falls to the leaders and their management staffs to move forward with all the construction details and to complete the process at or below the cost promised to the taxpayers.

One of the first steps in this process, is to decide which of the two construction management methods allowed by Oklahoma law will be used. The choice is between: the construction manager at risk () method or the traditional design-bid-build method.

When the project is estimated to have a high cost, many city, county, and school leaders choose the method.   There are several advantages to the approach:

The project can normally be completed faster as it facilitates better coordination between the construction manager, architects, engineers, and the entity responsible for the completion of the project;

This collaborative approach creates enhanced synergies throughout the process, and
Transparency is enhanced because all costs and fees are in the open, which diminishes adversarial relationships between components working on the project while at the same time eliminating bid shopping.

There is, however, a part of the law which Tulsa County believes needs to be changed because the current law increases the cost of construction, which is not helpful to taxpayers.

Currently, the law says that the can be selected based on their “qualifications.”  The entity responsible for the project cannot ask they what they would charge to complete the project.  For example, if three highly qualified construction firms submit their “qualifications” the one deemed most qualified would be selected.  Only after the is selected is the government, school district, etc. allowed to begin negotiating with the firm on how much it is going to cost to complete the project.  Since the two other firms are out of the process at this point, the government or school district will never know what the other two, well qualified firms would have charged to complete the project.

Tulsa County believes a change in the current law would benefit both the competing construction firms and the taxpayers.

Changing this law to a 2-step process will save taxpayers millions of dollars. The first step would remain as it is today with firms submitting their qualifications and abilities to complete the project. Secondly, if the government or school district believes that more than one firm is well qualified to complete the project, those firms would be asked to submit bids regarding what they would charge to complete the project. 

Under the proposed law, the firms in the second round would also have to provide a detailed project management plan that would include schedules, timelines, proposed personnel, fees, profits, etc.

By moving beyond just qualifications, the leaders responsible for delivering the projects will have detailed work plans and costs to compare before choosing the final firm.

The leadership at Tulsa County believes that changing the selection process will provide more competition and openness and the result will be more accountable to the taxpayers.

Updated 12-18-2018

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