FRONT ROYAL – Town leaders face a tight deadline to design and build a new police headquarters. The Front Royal Police Department is working out of the former Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and that lease expires in 2017.
Town Council bought land in the former Avtex Fibers site for the new headquarters and so far has received eight architectural proposals and conducted initial interviews with firms Nov. 24. Council also has met in closed session on several occasions in recent months to discuss the project and interview architects interested in designing the facility. The project came up for discussion during a work session this week.
Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe suggested that council move forward on building a police headquarters using the traditional method of hiring an architect to design the facility and then seeking bids from construction firms rather than wait for proposals submitted through a process known, in some cases, to save money.
“Time is not really of the essence but I think that the council needs to move forward on something to keep us on a forward track instead of stagnant,” Tharpe said.
While most council members said they support going with the traditional design-bid-build process, Councilman Eugene Tewalt pushed for the town to use the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act, commonly referred to as the PPEA. The state law allows private firms to submit solicited or unsolicited proposals to design and build public projects. In many cases, local governments have seen project costs reduced by using the PPEA process. Strasburg saved millions of dollars on its wastewater treatment plant upgrade by switching gears from the traditional method to PPEA.
Council is in the process of adding PPEA guidelines to Front Royal’s town code. Town Manager Steve Burke said staff could put together a solicitation for proposals through the PPEA process within the next month or so. But some council members were divided on whether or not the town should move forward now or wait until PPEA guidelines are in place.
“If we’re not in that big of a hurry, then why do we want to waste a lot of money when we can go ahead and put the guidelines in place and go ahead and solicit PPEA proposals?” Tewalt asked.
The town would see the most savings in the amount of cost overruns, referred to as change orders, that might arise during the course of the project’s construction, Tewalt explained.
Tharpe said he supports putting PPEA guidelines in place. Council had wasted about seven months since they began to work on the project. Meanwhile, the town pays $4,000 per month to Warren County per its lease.
Councilman Bret Hrbek supported moving forward without PPEA guidelines.
“It was a great idea and I wish we could have made it work but it doesn’t seem to be working out right now for this project,” Hrbek said.
In response to Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger’s question, Burke said town staff could put together a PPEA solicitation in about a month or so.
The town is in the final stages of selecting an architectural firm for the project, Burke said. Tewalt commented that two of the three firms had pulled out of the discussions, though Burke said he had not heard this from those companies.
Burke pointed out that the town could work on putting the PPEA guidelines into effect and even use them in moving forward with the project should council decide to take that route. The town could build into the architectural services contract an initial phase to cover the preliminary design of the project that would allow council to go in a different direction if they receive a PPEA proposal or decide to advertise for such proposals, Burke explained.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org