Following much discussion, the Boyne City Commission voted 3-2, on Tuesday Feb. 25, to hire Environmental Architects to complete a study of Boyne City’s facilities.
Leading up to the decision, Boyne City Manager Michael Cain updated commissioners on the status of the city’s request for proposals of architectural design services and explained the process.
“We (city staff) each individually ranked them and then we combined that to develop a group ranking,” Cain said. “Items that were discussed as factors for the decisions from the various department heads included what was proposed as public participation, hours dedicated to the project, the proposed project time-lines, and previous similar projects.”
He added, “Subsequent to that, we publicly opened the cost portion of those bids. And, the bids ranged from a low of $21,750 to a high of $91,645.”
The request for proposals originally went out Dec. 16, 2013. Boyne City department heads and city administrative staff reviewed the proposals it received on Feb. 11.
Cain said that, based on the rankings determined by city officials, four firms were selected for interviews. The four firms included Environmental Architects, Elaine Keiser Architects, Northwest Design Group and THA.
Interviews of the firms—which lasted just over eight hours—occurred Tuesday Feb. 18 at Boyne City Hall.
A follow-up meeting was then held on Friday Feb. 21 to allow city administrative staff and department heads to discuss the interviews and decide what the next steps were to recommend to the city commission.
“Based on the interviews conducted, it was the feeling of the department heads that the city could not go too far wrong in hiring any of one of the four firms that were brought in for interviews,” Cain said. “It was the feeling that conducting second interviews of any of the firms, or interview any of the three firms that were not interviewed, was not necessary.”
He added, “It was the unanimous consensus of all the department heads present … that Environmental Architects should be retained to perform the city’s facilities analysis as requested.”
Environmental Architects was chosen, according to Cain, due to services previously provided to the city, the firm’s public participation plan, the team the firm assembled for the project, previous experience with similar projects and good references, among other attributes. Environmental Architects is the firm which has worked with the city on the Boyne City Veterans Park pavilion project.
Cain recommended to the Boyne City Commission that Environmental Architects of Traverse City be awarded the job at a cost of $25,860.
The city facilities included in this planning process include Boyne City Hall, which houses city administrative offices, department head offices, the police and fire departments, department of public works, maintenance garage, police storage and what to do with the unconnected EMS services—which are located in a privately-owned building that is leased to the city.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom, who attended the interviews of the firms, said her final analysis determined that Environmental Architects was the best firm for the job.
“It’s a massive project in undertaking in this community and I think it has to be done right and I think it also needs somebody who can quickly visualize the process and put those pieces together,” she said. “And, I think that this group seems to do that.”
Sansom said her concern, initially, was that the city facilities might end up being too similar to the Veterans Park pavilion design; but, Sansom ultimately supported them as the architect of choice.
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord asked if a representative from Environmental Architects was available to answer his questions—there were no representatives at the meeting.
Gaylord said his concern is that Environmental Architects could have difficulty separating its focus between the pavilion project and the city facilities study.
“Are they willing to back-burner that and focus on this project, which is on our city goals, to move that forward?” Gaylord said.
Gaylord added that the pavilion is not one of the city’s top goals, and that the city facilities study is.
Gaylord said he was concerned that the firm, throughout its bid document, referenced the pavilion and the city facilities project as though they were one endeavor.
“It’s almost as if they’re tying the two together,” Gaylord said. “So my concern is, again, that they’re looking at this as one big campus project—based on their own words—and the pavilion is totally unrelated to the actual city facilities project.”
He added, “The fact that they’re already involved with that other project gives me some pause.”
Gaylord, commenting on Environmental Architects’ shorter than average proposed time-line for completion, said a project of this magnitude needs to be done right, not quickly.
Environmental Architects proposed a time-line of 30 to 45 days, while some of the other firms proposed a time-line of three to four months.
“Where is the give and take?” Gaylord said. “What is their advantage over somebody that’s going to take longer time?”
In Gaylord’s assessment of the interviews of the firms, he felt that one company exceeded all others.
“For me, the firm that jumped to the top was Elaine Keiser Architects,” he said, adding that she answered his every question concisely and completely, and offered additional information on energy-saving features, technology, building design and a detailed cost breakdown for each room—something none of the other firms provided or even discussed.
“Is this a matter of being penny-wise and pound foolish?” Gaylord said. “Saving a couple dollars up front but finding out on the back end that difference is going to be equal or greater than what we would have invested to begin with.”
Keiser’s bid came in at $87,790. Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said he supports the recommendation of Environmental Architects.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said he was sure the other architects were creative and skilled but that Environmental Architects had familiarity with the city. He was impressed with how they talked about the process and their choice in working with another local firm, and that their working on both the pavilion and the city facilities projects could end up being a good thing.
Neidhamer said he was confident with the recommendation to hire Environmental Architects.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said, in order to sell the project to the taxpayers, it may take a 30- or 40-year municipal bond that ties both the Veterans pavilion and the city facilities projects together.
“Whoever we approve, I think it really requires discernment,” Grunch said, adding that he felt Elaine Keiser’s presentation was the more astute proposal.
Grunch said the shorter time-line proposed by Environmental Architects could leave out certain stakeholders.
Ultimately, Grunch said he would like to see Elaine Keiser Architects hired; but, he said the city would do well to bring both firms back for a second round of interviews.
Neidhamer said a second round of interviews might not hurt but they seemed unnecessary.
He also requested that city staff work up a proposal on how much funding a one-mil tax levy would generate over both a 30- and 40-year period.
Cain told commissioners that Environmental Architects scored highest among the city staff, and that THA came in with the second highest score; Elaine Keiser Architects came in at third place in the rankings.
Cain said Environmental Architects was the only firm which received only first and second choice rankings by city administrative staff and department heads.
Gaylord said he took city staff recommendations into account in his decision, and added that Elaine Keiser was a planning commissioner for 12 years, which gave her additional insight into the importance of public participation in the process.
Gaylord said he is confident Elaine Keiser’s firm will help create an efficient, practical facility that meets the needs of both the city staff and the public.
Neidhamer said the same could be said for Environmental Architects, adding that he would rather go with the firm most chosen by the city’s department heads.
Both Grunch and Gaylord voted “no” on the motion to hire Environmental Architects.