The Albany City Council on Wednesday voted 6-0 to seek a design-build contract for repairs at the Vine Street water treatment plant.
The move comes after the council's Feb. 22 vote to exempt the project from competitive bidding in order to streamline it as well as keep costs down.
A design-build contract allows one contractor to design the project and execute the construction.
The issue with the plant is that its two concrete filter tanks aren't maintaining consistent and equal water levels. Operations staff discovered the problem in 2010, and the city's 2017 budget allows nearly $30,000 for the inspection and repair.
Operations staff member Nolan Nelson in February explained to the council that the tanks will have to be drained and cleaned, and that the filtration media, an expensive mix of rock, sand and minerals, will need to be removed so crews can inspect the concrete wall and determine how to repair it.
The Wednesday night vote directs staff to prepare a request for proposals for potential contractors, but a legally required public hearing on the project preceded the vote. No one from the public spoke during the hearing. Councilor Mike Sykes, however, asked City Engineer Staci Belcastro whether anyone with the city understood the difference between a design-build contract and a low-bid contract.
"Some of these (contractors) are really, really good at squeezing more money out of you," he said. "So is there somebody on staff who has the expertise to cover the city's hind end?"
City Manager Wes Hare interjected, saying he has used the design-build model in the past and it always has been successful.
Councilor Bill Coburn also spoke in favor of the approach, citing a conference he attended where he learned about the design-build contract for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
"I'll never forget the answer to the question, 'What's the advantage of design-build?'" he said. "And the answer was, 'No change orders.'"
Coburn also allowed that the city would carry the burden to evaluate each proposal, but ultimately the risk would be on the contractor.
Work is expected to begin next fall once a contractor is selected.