Carson City lobbyist Mary Walker said problems with the contractor of the Carson Aquatic Center could have been avoided under legislation that would allow Nevada counties more flexibility in their public construction projects.
Carson City officals signed on Thursday to an idea that would put all Nevada counties on par with Clark County, the only county to use the design-build contracting method. The design-build method allows government entities to choose a architect, engineer and contractor team to complete a project together rather than a public entity finding someone to design a project and then hire the lowest bidder to build it. The 1999 Legislature approved design-build contracting, but the law is too limiting in its current form, Walker said.
Nevada law allows projects to be built under the design-build method only on projects which cost $30 million or more. Walker said no other western state has the cost limitation Nevada does. Walker said an interim legislative committee is recommending the project cost limit be lowered to at least $250,000.
"Everyone agrees the threshold should be lowered," Walker said. "With design build you won't have to bid a job to a contractor just because its the low bidder. It give us another tool.
"I'm really passionate about this after 15 years of watching these projects go under," she added. "Most contractors are fine. But the low bid isn't the low bid. They change order you to death. Low bid doesn't always work. (Design-build) almost eliminates finger pointing between an architect and the contractor because you're hiring a team, the architect, the contractor and an engineer."
Walker said the $3.8 million pool project would have been ideal for design build because it was a complex remodel, and many of the design unknowns would have been worked around rather than stalling the project.
Walker said the legislation proposes to allow any public entity, in Carson, the city, school district or hospital, one design-build project a year to start, just so everyone can get used to the contracting method.
Walker said government entities would request project proposals and choose the team, design and price which would best suit their project. Walker said state, contracting and local government agencies are supporting the proposal.