Tulsa County plans to cancel its contract with Manhattan Construction for the new juvenile justice center and will enter into an amended, less expensive agreement with Selser Schaefer Architects, the firm designing the center, County Commissioner Ron Peters said Thursday.
The news comes four months after commissioners learned the estimated cost of the project was $83 million — nearly twice what commissioners originally said it would cost. The new facility is to be built on the former Storey Wrecker Service property at 10 N. Elm St. It will replace the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau at 315 S. Gilcrease Museum Road.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the contract cancellation and the amended agreement with Selser Schaefer on Monday.
“We have come to the conclusion that the contract we had with Manhattan, which was called a construction manager at risk contract, where they managed the process, was too expensive a process for us to go forward with,” Peters said. “So we had to find something better and that better thing is going to be to hard bid everything out.”
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“If you say it is going to be a million dollars of concrete and it cost you a million and a half, you have to eat that because you already told us you would do it for a million.” – County Commissioner Ron Peters[/perfectpullquote]
As part of its agreement with Manhattan, the county will pay the company $35,000 to sever the deal. No decision has been made on whether the county will manage the project itself or hire another company or individual to do the job, Peters said.
The new agreement with Selser Schaefer reduces the firm’s fee to 6.25 percent of the total project cost. The fee under the existing contract is 8 percent to 9 percent, Peters said.
Savings will also be found by slightly reducing Selser Schaefer’s scope of work, Peters said. The county, for example, plans to pick up some of the engineering and alarm system work it would have had to pay consultants to do under its existing agreement with the architecture firm.
Peters said putting each piece of the project up for bid would give the county more control over costs by obligating the bidder to bring the work in on budget or be responsible for any cost overrun.
The existing agreement with Manhattan left too much room for price fluctuations, Peters said.
“The construction manager at risk concept, for example, has contingencies built into it for if prices go up; it has the ability to do change orders to made the prices go up,” Peters said. “You have less control over it than if you bid it out on a hard bid — this is what it is going to be, period.
“If you say it is going to be a million dollars of concrete and it cost you a million and a half, you have to eat that because you already told us you would do it for a million.”
Peters expressed confidence that the new juvenile justice center — which is being called the Tulsa County Family Justice Center — can be built at the $45 million price tag voters were promised and serve the intended purposes.
“It won’t have all of the niceties, adornments and so forth, but it will still be able to serve a basic function of helping juveniles and helping the families reunite,” Peters said. “But it won’t be the Taj Mahal.”
It would not be fair or accurate to say Manhattan was being fired from the project, Peters said.
“The original contract with Manhattan said if we get to this point before we actually start construction, if for any reason we need to abandon this contract, we can do so for $35,000, so we have,” Peters said. “It is not that we have anything against Manhattan, we’re just changing the process.”
Peters added that he expects Manhattan to be one of the firms bidding on the project when it goes out for rebid. That process is expect to begin in about two months with construction expected to last at least 18 months.
Representatives from Manhattan and Selser Schaefer were not available for comment Thursday.
In late 2013 and early 2014, commissioners pitched the family justice center as a long overdue replacement for the Juvenile Bureau and said it would cost approximately $45 million. Voters overwhelmingly approved a 15-year, 0.041 percent sales tax to fund the project April 1, 2014.
After considering several properties, the county chose to build the new facility on the old Storey Wrecker site.
The center will be home to all Tulsa County Juvenile Court operations, including courtrooms, meeting rooms, administrative offices and a 96-bed detention center. Court support services such as the Public Defender’s Office will have offices in the new facility. The Community Intervention Center also will operate out of the center.
According to county records, Selser Schaefer was hired to work on the project in 2009 and has been paid $1.355 million thus far.
Manhattan wasn’t hired until late last year and has been paid $10,000, according to the county Fiscal Office.
Earlier this year, county commissioners approved a $60,000 contract with Stonebridge Consulting to explore ways the project cost could be reduced. That process included meetings with Manhattan and Selser Schaefer to see how their fees and costs could be reduced.
Monday’s vote will mark the culmination of those efforts.