BY JEFF CLARK
The City of Columbus welcomed its new project manager Tuesday night, although not necessarily with open arms. Consulting firm J5, an affiliate of Broadus and Associates, was named the city’s new project manager during the July 2 meeting on a 4-2 vote. Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box and Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin voted against the measure.
Not much changed Tuesday night as the council voted to approve the firm’s contract, again on a 4-2 vote.
The council voted 4-2 to lease J5 office space in the city-owned strip mall next to the Municipal Complex for $6,000 a year. The discussion immediately drew the ire of Gavin.
“Mr. Turnage, let me ask you a question,” Gavin said. “Is it not a conflict of interest for the city to enter into a deal or contract with someone we’re going to enter into a business agreement with?”
Turnage said the ethics laws are designed to prevent an elected official from personally benefiting from an agreement.
“I know this lease agreement has the money going to the city,” Turnage said.
The council next agreed to the master service agreement between J5 and the city, which is a four-year contract. The contract terms are for $90,000, six percent of projects as well as some expenses. Broadus and Associates Senior Projects Manager Robyn Eastman discussed the firm’s role in Columbus with the council. Eastman said he was recently working in the Broadus Biloxi office but left to help establish the Columbus office.
“The first piece we would do is enter in some strategic planning to include project planning, development of a budget and some schedules before we actually incorporate a designer and have the project actually designed,” Eastman said. “If you have a designer on board, we would work with that designer. If not, we would help you select a designer. And we’ll provide oversight to that designer to make sure you stay within your budget.”
Eastman said the company will also oversee the bid process for upcoming projects as well as awarding the contractors and provide project oversight. Eastman said the firm will also have weekly meeting between the owner, architect and contractor to discuss scheduling.
“ We are not a design firm, we are exclusively a project management firm,” Eastman said.
Gavin then challenged Eastman on his answers.
“I’ve been involved in this business for 40 years and it’s been my expectations that the engineering firms and a lot of architecture firms deliver the same service that you do,” Gavin said.
“Well you say they’re the same service, I would contend that’s a conflict of interest and you have the fox guarding the hen house,” Eastman said.
“Doesn’t normally a company of your status and so forth deal with projects like schools or hospitals, like $20 million or more? Is there enough business here for you to be able to do $300,000 projects?” Gavin asked.
“We will also help being grant money to the city,” Eastman said.
“Is it guaranteed?” Gavin asked.
“Sir, there are no guarantees,” Eastman replied.
“What are you going to do for $90,000?” Gavin asked.
“We’re going to take and provide you with construction management services as well as the ability to bring grant fees to your city for the next year,” Eastman said.
The council also approved a zoning variance for a lodge at the old marina restaurant as suggested by the city’s planning commission. Two entry level firefighters were hired by the city. Approval was given to Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell to begin the recruitment process for the position of Community Resources Outreach Coordinator. Sources close to the hire said the promotion will be given to current Columbus Police Department Public Information Officer Glenda Buckhalter.