Project manager presentations
B.L. Harbert International presents their project management proposal to the $110 million bond project task force on March 2.
The task force charged with choosing a project manager to oversee school, park and public safety improvement projects met Thursday evening to interview three potential firms.
The task force includes city council, school board, parks and recreation and police representatives. These projects – which include expansion of schools, a potential new high school, new West Homewood Park ballfields, a new Patriot Park pool and a public safety headquarters in West Homewood — will be funded out of the $110 million bond the city approved.
The three firms were Robins & Morton, Hoar Program Management and B.L. Harbert International. The request for proposal (RFP) included not just oversight of construction, finances and scheduling of these projects, but also the completion of a demographics analysis for the school system to see how their student population and space needs will change in the future.
Task force and City Council President Bruce Limbaugh had previously said the March 2 presentations and Q&As would be open to the public, with only the final deliberation private. However, at the start of the meeting, Limbaugh said two of the firms requested that financial matters be discussed only with the task force members. Harbert was one of those two, as its representatives reiterated that concern during the public portion of their presentation.
“Two of the firms were really not comfortable discussing financial issues outside of the task force,” Limbaugh said.
This did not sit well with residents at the meeting, who had previously voiced concerns about the task force making its decisions in meetings without public access.
Each of the firms highlighted its previous experience with similar projects, its ability to manage multiple projects at once, cost saving measures and its demographic capabilities. Using a variety of city, school and housing data, as well as public feedback, all three firms promised they could provide demographic profiles of the city's school population, future projections and needs assessments.
Limbaugh also noted all three companies have at least one senior executive who lives in Homewood.
Robins & Morton has previously worked with the city of Opelika on a similar set of simultaneous projects for their high school, recreation center and power services, and their demographics firm, Cropper GIS, has provided services to Cullman, Atlanta, Charleston, Baltimore and several other public school systems.
Hoar Project Management currently has 46 active clients, and its past work has included the University of Alabama and Vestavia Hills City Schools. Project manager Tommy Alfano noted the company's "Sprint Start" approach to speed up progress in the first 100 days, and gave Hoar's completion of the Airbus facility four months ahead of schedule and 7.5 percent under budget as an example.
Harbert previously worked on the initial study of the schools and parks that led to the current bond project, as well as project management for the Homewood Community Center. Rather than a single project, Harbert proposed treating the schools, parks and public safety projects as separate entities with dedicated teams.
Harbert also gave the most extensive timeline information in its presentation. Representatives John Wallace and Charlie Vick estimated a roughly 18-month timeline to design and build a new public safety building, eight to nine months to construct the Patriot Park pool, eight to nine months to build a maintenance facility, 32 total months to design and construct school additions and a potential new high school and completion of West Homewood ballfields spread over two seasons to allow youth leagues to continue playing.
“That’s one of Harbert’s real strengths,” Limbaugh said after the meeting.
The task force did not share financial details of any of the firms. Limbaugh said it was hard to directly compare costs because the firms measured and provided those numbers in different ways, such as conservative estimates with a higher price tag that account for potential problems or a "cost-plus" system of base service fees with additional charges added on.
The task force convened privately after the interviews to discuss which firm they would recommend to the council. Limbaugh said once that decision is made, it will be made public after all three competing firms are informed.