|56 building and renovation projects on Knox County facilities have been undertaken since 2003, some of which were eventually scrapped. 26 of those projects developed schematic designs before construction, or installation began.
Prior to 2006, financial records for the projects are not locatable at the Knox County Courthouse, but according to County documents, total costs of $5.9-million were expended on projects over the 10 year period. Each of the projects after 2006 experiencing a change of scope or in post bid construction costs, known as a "change order," dealt with renovations or updates to existing buildings. Knox County Clerk Scott Erickson tells WGIL that no matter how well the County designs a project, it always has the potential to run into problems.
"A change order isn't necessarily a bad thing," says Erickson. "Lots of change orders can develop into bad things. I'm not well versed in the construction field so I don't know by looking at a blueprint that 'they' wired this outlet wrong or they should've put two or three vents in here when they should have put one vent. We defer those to the architects and engineers, the people who can know what's going on, who should have an idea."
Since 2006, a total of $269,114.59 in change orders was executed with many of those changes stemming from renovations and construction to the Knox County Nursing Home's Bariatric Wing in 2010.
Other projects experiencing change orders include the installation of downspouts and sidewalks at the Courthouse, construction of a Scale House at the Landfill, and Sally Port renovation at the Mary Davis Home. According to County documents, four different companies were involved with the four projects experiencing change orders in the construction process.
A review of the bid tabulations for the corresponding projects concludes that even after the change orders, none of the selected bids turned out higher than the second highest competing bids. However, sources who requested not to be identified say their bids were more reflective of how certain projects should have been designed as opposed to the way it stood during the RFP (request for proposal) phase. Because the "runners-up" in the bid selection were using what one source described as a "best guess," pricing on certain projects have the potential to been seen as skewed.
The bid results, sources say, most likely played a role in which companies were selected for bids - potentially costing the County funds on those projects. County Board Chair Greg Bacon tells WGIL he finds it hard to believe the construction companies could foresee things that architects didn't.
"What the architect has set up, and what was set up to bid, they might've went [sic] a different way that wasn't on the bid package, and they might be telling you they thought it was a better way, but it's not what the architects did," says Bacon.
The way bids are selected is partially determined by price, but also by a resolution adopted by the Knox County Board in April of 2004 stating that the lowest bid may not be chosen for not meeting the bid requirements, defined as the "responsible bid." Prior to that time, Erickson says it was an unspoken agreement.
"You'd hope that you don't have a lot of [change orders] because usually you don't budget for those," says Erickson. "When the board signs a contract for $100,000, their idea and goal is that the project is going to be done for $100,000."
Differences in how the project fared upon completion likely cost the Knox County government in unnecessary funds, according to sources close to the situation. Building Committee Co-Chair George Knapp has also said he thinks the County has overspent on certain projects at the County's Building Committee meeting on May 13th, but later called the matter "water under the bridge." Requests for blueprints of designed projects were denied under Section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act. The documents would have allowed the design quality to be analyzed by professionals.
The Knox County Board, at their May 2013 meeting, however, finalized a process that hopes to get County building and renovation projects correct the first try. The Board voted to send all future Knox County construction projects through the County's Building Committee and made the decision to hire Donnie Gladfelter as a permanent Owner's Representative for the County. Bacon tells WGIL that the County wants to keep all of the projects on the same page.
"The architect can look at a lot of things, but once you start tearing walls apart and floors up, you run into things that you didn't know were there," says Bacon. "You can go to any project in Knox County, but any project that's a remodel or a renovation of an old place, and you'll see that type of stuff."
Gladfelter retired from the Galesburg branch of Hein Construction earlier this year and will see compensation of 2.5% on the front end and 2.5% after a project is completed. Prior to hiring Gladfelter, each County Department would handle their own construction or renovation project before sending it to the County Board for final approval.
Bacon says that if there was a problem with the design and bidding process, it has now been fixed.