Architect says contingency fee is standard procedure; alderman has concerns

The presence of a 10 percent — $240,000 — contingency fee in the projected $2.4 million budget for the renovation of the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building elicited some concern from Ward Three Alderman Glen Brown at the Monday meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council.

“I want to make sure that the money is being channeled in the right direction,” Brown said in a conversation Thursday afternoon. “I want to make it clear that I am not trying to accuse anyone of doing anything wrong. I am just trying to be a good steward of the people’s money.”

Brown said he has seen such fees abused in the past and does not want to see such actions repeated.

“I’m not saying anyone is being dishonest here,” Brown said. “I am just concerned about making sure that the city’s money is being put to the best use.”

Richard Taylor, an architect with Nelson Architectural Group, is working on the project jointly with Fred Reed of the Reed Architectural Firm.

“A contingency fee is standard protocol at this early stage of the project,” Taylor said Thursday. “The architectural drawings are being done by Fred [Reed] and I am putting the budget numbers together. The fee is part of the preliminary cost estimate. Because the drawings for the project are not 100 percent complete at this point we add the contingency fee to account for any unforeseen expenses.”

Taylor said that architectural firms come up with the best estimate of what they think construction costs on a project will be and then add 10 percent.

“The project will develop as the architectural plans grow,” Taylor said.

Brown said he will continue to do his part to ensure that taxpayer money is being used wisely.

“Sometimes people will add things as an expense when they don’t have to,” Brown said. “I am just trying to make sure that each expense is an honest expense. I was elected to be one of those who keeps an eye on the city’s finances. My concern is if you make a bid and are the lowest bid you should absorb any additional costs.”

Joe Thomas renovations

Reed said at a Jan. 24 special meeting of the council’s public safety committee that the first priority for the renovation work — which he estimated would be complete by May 2015 — will be the creation of a public entrance for visitors to the police department at street level, adjacent to the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department’s fire truck bays on State Street.

“Right now people who need to pay fines must either go through the back of the fire station to access the elevator that will take them to the police department or they have to climb the stairs up to the plaza level,” Reed said at the Jan. 24 meeting. “We will construct a new entrance that allows people who simply need to pay a fine to speak with a receptionist stationed just inside the entrance on the first floor who will be able to help them.”

Reed said the work will include a complete update of electrical wiring and plumbing throughout the building.

“The building was built in 1963 and because it is 50 years old its current electrical system is under a lot of stress trying to power the many items that need electricity, including computers, printers and copiers,” Taylor said at the Jan. 24 meeting.

Reed said the plan calls for the removal of the old jail area that is currently being used to store evidence. The renovation will create new offices for the patrol and detective divisions, as well as creating two holding cells and an area where suspects can be brought in for questioning.

“The current location of the detective offices will become a gym for use of the police and fire departments,” Reed said at the Jan. 24 meeting. “We will also do waterproofing of the building. For the fire department space on the third floor we will redo the existing locker area and remodel the bathroom to include a designated women’s shower area to accommodate female firefighters.”