Cambensy design-build bill passes in House

MARQUETTE — A bill that allows for architects and building companies to work together under a single contract when working on public school projects passed the Michigan House of Representatives 74-29 Wednesday.

The Rep. Sara Cambensy-sponsored HB 5538 would allow for Michigan public schools to use a design-build procurement process for school infrastructure projects. Michigan public schools are the only state entity which doesn’t allow for this method and Michigan is one of the last states in the country that doesn’t allow design-build procurement in its public school systems.

The bill now heads to the Michigan Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform. Cambensy hopes to get the bill through the Senate and to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk by this fall.

“When you allow for the design and the actual construction work to be bid separately, it can add to the project timeline and cost. With the traditional design-build process, there isn’t one sole entity responsible for the project,” Cambensy said. “When disputes happen or the communication between the two breaks down, there is often finger pointing at whose fault it is, as costly change orders with public school board members and the taxpayers being surprised at the added costs. Design-build would allow public schools to be at the table from the beginning, helping make small changes to the project along the way, cutting costs on items or design that might not be necessary at each major section of work being done.”

According to Cambensy, roughly 85% of school budgets are teacher, bus driver, custodian, support staff and administrative salaries and wages. Unforeseen changes to school projects can mean cuts to school staff and personnel.

“Working in the public schools for 10 years, I saw firsthand how stressful change orders were on superintendents and school board members when they unexpectedly had change orders that added up to $50,000, $100,000 or even $200,000 over the proposed project budget,” Cambensy said. “Those cost overruns all of the sudden become potential job layoffs or FTE (full-time equivalent) reductions, which can devastate classroom sizes, services or programs that public schools offer.”

The design-build process has been successful in helping agencies like the Michigan Department of Transportation save time and money on large-scale highway rebuild projects. Other agencies like the Department of Energy and Great Lakes, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Management and Budget have used the design-build blueprint for making projects more efficient and cost effective.

“When a city has the chance to build a brand-new state-of-the-art public works facility, it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and leadership has one chance to get it right. With our budget smaller than anticipated at the time, the project goals, cost and timeline we demanded were anything but desirable. Gundlach-Champion guaranteed a similar building design to our original plan using a design-build process, which allowed our city department heads and engineers to help decide what changes could be made to get it done as we went,” Cambensy said. “Having the responsibility rest on one contractor, who still used licensed engineers and architects and union labor, the team approach, attention to detail, and added communication between everyone, it was a win-win for everyone, especially the taxpayers. It’s a no-brainer that we should allow our public schools the option to utilize the same time- and cost-saving procurement process with design-build.”

Randy Crouch can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His email address is rcrouch@miningjournal.net.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today