Overseer picked for park
Sunbelt Builders to lead work on Denny Dobbs

COVINGTON - County commissioners selected Sunbelt Builders of Covington Tuesday night to oversee the construction of Denny Dobbs Park.

The 53-acre park planned for Richards Chapel Road at Ga. Highway 212 is set to be built in three phases for about $3 million and funded through impact fees.

With initial bids coming in as much as 20 percent over budget, commissioners opted to rebid the project and hire a project manager to try to cut costs.

Sunbelt bid $51,000 to oversee one contractor and $70,000 to oversee multiple subcontractors.

Sunbelt was selected by a committee consisting of Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan, Recreation Commission Chairman Johnny Presley, Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey, Recreation Commission Board member Ronnie Brannen, Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office and County Landscape Architect Debbie Bell.

The county received six proposals that were evaluated based on price, qualifications of personnel, prior experience with similar projects, and the proposed timeline and methodology to come in on budget.

The low bidder was Exterior Concepts of Buford at $38,000 to oversee one contractor and $46,000 for multiple subcontractors, but that company was not as qualified, according to Presley.

Sunbelt has more experience with similar projects, and "it's always good when we can bring business to our local economy," Hailey said.

Impact fees collected for parks and recreation total $1.48 million. The project cost for the first phase of the park has been set at $1.38 million with a contingency of $100,000.

Some commissioners had initially questioned whether the park should be funded at this time, given that it would swallow up the entire parks and recreation impact fee fund, and the vote to move forward in March was a narrow 3-2.

District 5 Commissioner Tim Fleming asked Tuesday whether the Recreation Commission can afford to maintain the park, given that funding for the commission has already been cut by 20 percent.

Maintenance and operation for the park is estimated to top $31,000 per year, minus an estimated $8,000 in rental fee revenues, which would put the cost at more than $23,000.

Hailey said the commission can maintain the park if the cuts stop at 20 percent. Commissioners have floated the idea of cutting appropriations to the Recreation Commission and other agencies by an additional 5 percent to balance the fiscal year 2010 budget.

"Beyond (20 percent) it would be hard for us to commit to building this park," Hailey said. "Twenty percent we can live with. Hopefully, we don't have to go any deeper."

Under a project manager's supervision and coordination, each aspect of the project - from grading to paving to landscaping - will be bid out to get the lowest cost possible.

Morgan said the county public works department could be utilized for grading and other work as well.

The county has utilized a project manager before for projects like the downtown Administration Building. Project managers can save money up front because mark-up fees charged by contractors for guaranteeing the work of subcontractors are eliminated, Morgan said.

A project manager can also make adjustments to the site plan once work starts that will save money as well, she said.

Morgan estimated that the county could save between $300,000 and $400,000 by hiring a project manager while not diminishing the quality of the park.

The selection of Sunbelt Builders was unanimously approved.

Construction is slated to begin July 1.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.