SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday adopted a new ordinance that will allow flexibility in managing city and school construction projects.

But whether the city will be able to take advantage of the change for the upcoming high school renovation project, as intended, will depend on whether the Legislature passes an emergency bill.

The council also appointed Tappan Fitzgerald to the interim District 5 School Board seat vacated by Alan Livingston, who in November won an at-large seat on the council.

The ordinance unanimously approved by the council will allow the city to hire a construction manager to oversee large, complicated construction projects.

The ordinance would also allow the city to use “design-bid-build” format, which is being used by the state Department of Transportation on the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge project.

The use of a construction manager was recommended by consulting architects for the renovation and expansion of the high school, a three-year project that is anticipated to be built out in phases while students are in the school.

In a position paper to councilors, City Manager Jim Gailey said a construction manager would engage designers and engineers early in the process to establish an accurate design and budget.

The manager, who would control subcontractor bids, would also develop a project schedule, including phasing, and review systems, materials, construction techniques and associated costs.

Under the current ordinance, the city’s purchasing agent is responsible for the bid process.

“The (construction manager) format is ideal for complex projects involving difficult sites, challenging renovations with phasing and work on occupied sites,” Gailey wrote. “Budget driven projects are better served by this format.”

But the ordinance approval does not guarantee the city will be able to use a construction manager for the high school project, since the Department of Education frowns upon the practice. 

DOE spokesman David Connerty-Marin could not be reached on Tuesday to explain the department’s stance.

Rep. Jane Eberle, D-South Portland, said on Tuesday that a special law enacted by the 122nd Legislature allowing the use of construction managers has expired. The effort was part of a five-year study on “Alternative Delivery Approaches,” she said. 

Eberle said she is reviewing a report about the study and looking into how towns and city’s that participated in the study fared.

“I’m not sure what the best move will be for South Portland, but I am currently exploring options,” Eberle said.

Gailey said the city is hoping legislators can enact an emergency bill, even though the DOE discourages the use of construction managers. 

“It’s an uphill fight,” he said. “But I think it’s something we have to at least kick the tires on and show we’re willing to pursue.”

Eberle said she isn’t sure whether such a bill would pass, since the LePage administration has yet to form its Education Committee.

“I have no idea what to expect as responses,” she said.

Councilor Tom Blake said he hoped the city could work with legislators to give South Portland the chance to take advantage of the new ordinance.

Regardless of how it works out for the school, Gailey said the city would benefit from the change, especially when it decides to move forward with a new public works facility.

“I think the ordinance is a benefit for both the city and school,” he said.

School Board

In other business, the council unanimously approved Tappan Fitgerald to represent District 5 on the School Board until the November 2011 elections.

He ran for the District 5 seat in 2009 and received more than 4,100 votes, but was defeated by Livingston by 13 votes.

Fitzgerald is the community relations manager at Hannaford Bros. Co., where he has worked for 25 years. The 42-year-old has two children in public schools and has been a member of the Skillin Parent Teacher Association for about 10 years. He also served on the school redistricting committee.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]

Sidebar Elements

City councilor recovering from heart surgery

SOUTH PORTLAND — City Councilor Alan Livingston is recovering from heart surgery, following a heart attack late last week.

Mayor Rosemarie De Angelis said Livingston’s wife informed the council on Friday that he had been admitted to Maine Medical Center in Portland for chest pains.

De Angelis said Livingston was kept for observation over the weekend, and underwent surgery on Monday to place a stint.

Councilor Jim Hughes, who had a similar procedure about five years ago, said he visited Livingston, who appeared to be doing fine.

Hughes said Livingston was home on Tuesday afternoon.

“He sounds fine, although tired,” Hughes said.

— Randy Billings

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