Clover council rejects Town Hall bids, agrees to serve as own general contractor

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comJanuary 14, 2014 

— The Clover Town Council rejected bids for its Town Hall renovation Monday, saying they were too far over budget, and moved forward with plans to oversee the project itself.

Mayor Donnie Grice told council members he believes the town could save as much as $100,000 by serving as its own general contractor for the renovation and hiring a consultant to oversee the work and bidding.

“We can come in and do the Town Hall project that JM Cope was going to do and stay within $10,000 of being within budget,” Grice said, referring to the low bidder.

Grice said the town’s engineering firm, Joel E. Woods and Associates, has agreed to oversee the renovation, scheduling and bidding for $5,000 to $6,000.

The rest of the project involves 17 jobs that would go out to bid, from roofing to painting and other cosmetic work, he said.

Council member Ann Harvey was the only council member who vote to oppose rejecting the bids and having the town serve as its general contractor.

Harvey repeatedly argued that she wanted the work done correctly, and that subcontractors need to be qualified and insured.

Grice repeatedly assured her they would be.

Town Manager Allison Harvey, who was asked by the council to share her view on Grice’s approach, also expressed some reservations.

“I do recognize the council’s concern about the financial end of it, and I want to save money,” Allison Harvey told the council.

However, she said, “I’m very concerned about doing it on our own, because I feel having that general contractor layer protects us more.”

She also said the project will require more staff time than if the town hired a general contractor. “It will require more hands-on time,” she said.

The council last month learned that the lowest of four bids to renovate the existing Clover Town Hall and the former Wachovia bank building was more than $140,000 more than the town budgeted.

The town spent $171,000 in February to buy the former Wachovia building on Bethel Street for added office space, but the roof is leaking and the building needs some other work.

Town officials said they have about $218,000 to finish the work. However, the lowest bid , from Rock Hill-based JM Cope, came to $362,700.

Several town council members last month balked at a suggestion by Allison Harvey to cut costs by reducing the scope of the project and remove about $92,000 from its reserve fund to cover the balance.

Grice, who said he sought informal estimates on project costs from area contractors during the past several weeks, told the council he believes the town can get the remaining new Town Hall renovation work done for around $228,000, or about $9,700 more than the $218,000 budget.

That estimate includes the cost of sealing the parking lot, which is cracked because of groundwater issues, instead of removing the old asphalt and replacing it. The cost of the parking lot replacement was estimated at $86,000, with another $14,750 for landscaping.

Sealing the parking lot instead of removing and replacing it, Grice said, is “a band-aid. We’re maybe buying four, five years.”

The cost does not include planned work on the existing town hall.

However, Grice said he believes costs may come in lower than his estimates when they are put out in a competitive bid process.

If the town saves significant money on the renovation of the new town hall, he said, it may have enough money left to do some work on the existing town hall.

Councilman Wes Spurrier said he would prefer to handle the project differently, but that he was concerned about the costs. “It’s purely a financial decision,” he said.

Grice said he believes the new Town Hall renovation can be complete by June. The council gave Allison Harvey authority to approve purchases up to the project cost of $228,000 to expedite the project.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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