Montevallo council seeks to serve as its own contractor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Montevallo officials hope to save the city thousands of dollars by building a new fire station in-house, but first they have to find out if its legal.

State law requires municipalities to bid out public works projects exceeding $50,000.

The new fire station, planned for Alabama Highway 119 near Moores Crossroads, is estimated at $120,000, but Councilman Bob Lightfoot said it may be possible for the city to break down the project into phases and act as its own general contractor.

&uot;If we do this ourselves, we’ll be able to save some money,&uot; Lightfoot said, pointing out the city would see an immediate savings of 8 percent off the cost of materials because it would be exempt from sales taxes.

The city also would avoid the cost of an architect by performing the work itself, he said.

While Montevallo officials continue to research the legality of the matter, City Clerk Steve Gibbs said the attorney general has ruled a municipality can act as its own general contractor in a bid law loophole known as force account work.

But the stipulations are strict, and Gibbs said the city may still have to bid out some of the larger phases of the project.

&uot;For example, it there is foundation work that has to be done, you can’t have more than one foundation work,&uot; he said.

At its last meeting, the council voted to allow Lightfoot to negotiate with local contractor Bobby Hughes who may act as project manager for construction of the fire station.

Lightfoot said Hughes, a former firefighter, is the only contractor to approach the city about the project and he is confident &uot;the price is going to be right&uot; with Hughes.

Montevallo resident Ray Mayfield, who was present at the meeting, questioned the council’s decision and the fairness of choosing a project manager without comparing his fee with that of others.

&uot;If you can save 8 percent, that’s great. But somebody else might be interested as well,&uot; Mayfield said. &uot;I thought the whole purpose of the bidding process was to get the best price.&uot;

Lightfoot said the position of project manager will be handled as it would be for any other city project and he welcomes offers from other contractors.

&uot;I assure you everybody in this town is going to be informed of everything we do,&uot; he said.

Last month, the city finalized the purchase of an acre near Moores Crossroads as the site of the new fire station, the second for Montevallo.

Developer Tom Bagley donated the property to the city in exchange for rebates on sewer and water tap fees totaling $19,000 for his Ammersee Lakes subdivision, a credit for $25,700 in future fees and recognition of a $60,000 gift to the city.

As part of the agreement, Bagley also will have input in the look of the future station, which will sit at the entrance of the 44-acre subdivision