The architectural design fee for a new county public health building has almost doubled, a consequence of the increase in expected construction costs.
Chaves County officials decided to up the fee, in accordance with the contract, in an attempt to “lock it in” and stop it from rising.
“We think that we are probably saving the county a lot of money, but we won't know until its bid,” said County Manager Bill Williams. “At this point, we think it is a wise thing to do.”
Following his explanation of the reasoning, the Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted to approve an increase, which is about 92% higher than the fee the county originally expected to pay when the Board of Commissioners chose ASA Architects, P.A., from among two bidders in March 17, 2022.
According to Williams and county documents, the contract, which was negotiated in April, was a “standard” American Institute of Architects contract setting the architectural fee at 8% of the maximum allowable construction costs, plus 8.3125% gross receipts tax. That GRT amount is the rate in the Sunland Park area of Dona Ana County. Originally, construction costs were estimated at about $2.7 million, which would have put the architectural fee, including tax, at about $233,955.
“Immediately after our first meeting, the architect came in and said that the cost is probably going to be more like $5.1 million,” Williams said. “The 8% is now based on the $5.1 million, plus the GRT. With construction costs continuing to rise, workforce issues, supply-chain problems, all these things that are going on, we don't see the costs of construction could go down.”
He said he consulted with county legal staff to verify that the contract allows the architectural firm to continue to receive 8% of construction costs, even though design complexity would not increase. So the county wanted to sign an amendment, indicating that it intends to pay no more than 8% of $5.1 million, plus GRT, or $448,563.
Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr. asked if the fee payment would decrease if the construction cost is less than $5.1 million, and Williams said the county would be entitled to a rebate.
“However, like I say, we see nothing but this rising and rising,” Williams said about construction costs. He added, however, that the county does have the ability to make some changes in design to ensure that the construction costs do not go much beyond $5.1 million.
He said ASA Architects was involved in obtaining construction bids for a similar project that came in at $417 a square foot to $525 a square foot, so the current estimate for construction costs for the local health building seems in line with that.
The county intends to build the new building of about 12,000 square feet on a vacant lot in south Roswell at South Garden Avenue and East Hobbs Street, just north of Pecos Elementary School. It purchased the 3.37 acres of land for $55,000 from a private landowner in June 2022.
The new structure replaces the existing public health facility at 200 E. Chisum St. built in 1977. County officials decided that the existing structure could not be renovated to meet the needs of tenants, especially in terms of electrical and internet wiring needed for today's technology. By state law, counties are responsible for providing facilities for federal and state public health programs. These include the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program; Children's Medical Services; Families First, a Medicaid case management program for pregnant women and young children; and various health education, nutrition, family planning and immunization services.
The county announced in December that it considers the building project fully funded. It plans to use a $75,000 state capital outlay award, a $750,000 federal Community Block Development Grant and federal coronavirus relief funding for design and construction, with the possibility of receiving other grants and funding awards as well. Construction is expected to start in late 2023 and probably will take 12 to 18 months.
County commissioners also approved six other items, in addition to routine meeting items, during the Thursday meeting. That included voting to hold a public hearing April 29 about applications to close, change the maintenance status of or adopt roads. After the public hearing, commissioners will tour the roads and then vote on the applications, most likely during a May 18 meeting.
As an informational item, commissioners also received the recommendations submitted by three citizen freeholders who toured all 21 roads on March 8. The freeholders rejected five applications for road closures or “vacations,” which means those requests will not be reviewed or voted on by commissioners and those portions of roads will not be reconsidered for closure for three years. Those applications were for 3,858 feet of Marley Road; 3,858 feet of Shoshoni Road, north of Shawnee; 1,285 feet of Otto Road; 971 feet of Brasher Road, east of School Road; and 4,711 feet of Felix Ranch Road, west of Vineyard.
Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or email@example.com.
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