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Osceola could have its pick of construction management firms

Osceola Heritage Park renovations is one of 10 construction projects that will need a consultant to work as owners representative. Other projects include two new fire stations, a health clinic, park expansions and a law enforcement training facility.
Osceola Heritage Park renovations is one of 10 construction projects that will need a consultant to work as owners representative. Other projects include two new fire stations, a health clinic, park expansions and a law enforcement training facility. (Osceola County)

Several engineering and construction management firms could be selected in August for a three-year continuing contract with Osceola County -- but only the 13 who attended Wednesday's pre-bid conference will be considered.

The county solicited requests for proposals for qualified firms to act as construction manager/owner's representative on a variety of upcoming construction projects, ranging from park expansions to fire stations to a sheriff's office training facility and shooting range.

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"Right now we've got $150 million in the pipeline -- so we're pretty busy," Construction Management Director Pete Pace told the prospective bidders. "Of course, half of that is on one project, the center at the FARM. But we spend a majority of our money on projects that are $2 million or less."

The owners representative assists the county in both pre-construction and construction phases by reviewing documents and working closely with the general contractor to keep the project on track and on budget.

"As the owner's rep, your job is to save the owner money," said KMI International Marketing Manager Rebecca Varnadore. That could involve working with the architect on a design change or keeping an eye on trades to make sure they're using quality materials.

"You begin to see a lot of added value because one of our core services is construction estimating and scheduling,' Varnadore said.

A number of firms in attendance specialize in owners rep services, including Orlando-based ZHA, which has worked on the county's behalf for its largest project -- the Florida Advanced Research and Manufacturing Center -- and projects at Osceola Heritage Park.

Don Francke, senior program manager for Project Development International, said he's passionate about his role as owner's rep because he's been in Osceola's position. As former construction supervisor for Pinellas County, Francke said he oversaw the very expensive remediation of a sick building.

"The main thing about representing the county in this climate is to use your experience to know what the (construction) reports say," he said. "I've learned the hard way about things the reports don't tell you, so that's why you ask a lot of questions. You want to give good advice to the county because they're accountable to the people, so you really have to be vigilant about who's doing their job and who isn't."

Pace said the department hasn't set a cap on the number of firms that would be hired on a continuing contract. No task authorizations would exceed $250,000.

The county currently has five construction management firms on continuing contract. Of those, four are active. Pace said he doesn't want to select too few, because a smaller firm could be overwhelmed by the work. But he doesn't want too many, either.

"Polk County has 37 firms on continuing contract," he said. "They didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so they just hired everyone who responded to the RFP. But you don't want to do that because most of the firms never get any work."

Bids are due June 14.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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