Monday, June 22, 2009

Construction Management Agreement with Developer Not a Public Emergency

Prepared Comments Made to
June 22, 2009

At last Monday’s council of the whole meeting, there was discussion under the Community and Economic Development Committee, chaired by Marcia Kiesling, to ratify a Construction Management Agreement appointing Maple Street Commerce as “Manager and Construction Agent” for the City of North Canton. This agreement will allow Maple Street Commerce to oversee the expenditure of $3.0 million of Ohio’s Job Ready Site funds that were recently awarded to the city for the North Canton Hoover Campus Redevelopment Project.

I have a number of concerns.

For me this agreement is a little like letting the fox guard the hen house. There should be qualified and independent oversight of the expenditure of the millions of dollars of public funds that are being made available to Maple Street Commerce, a private developer. There is no such requirement under this agreement.

Another concern is that I do not believe the city’s economic development director, Eric Bowles, should be thrust into the role of “Project Manager” as outlined in this agreement. I do not feel Mr. Bowles has the necessary academic credentials or experience in construction management to manage the depth, breadth and complexity of a project of this size.

Furthermore, Mr. Bowles should not be placed into the position of “good cop bad cop” and that is exactly what you are asking him to be. How can the economic development director of any community be asked to promote and market his community to business interests and then oversee enforcement and compliance by those same business interests that locate into the community? Wearing two hats in this manner diminishes the effectiveness of each position and presents conflicts of interests.

Has anyone ever seen a single real estate agent represent both the buyer and the seller in a real estate transaction?

The discussion last week to allow Maple Street Commerce to be Manager and Construction Agent for the city is on tonight’s agenda as Ordinance No. 56-09 and is slated for passage on an emergency.

Do the health and welfare of the city or of its citizens require immediate passage of this legislation tonight? I believe the health and welfare of the city and its citizens would be better served if this legislation
were discussed further and passage not rushed.

I applaud my 3rd Ward Councilman, Councilmember Jeff Davies, for urging last week that the legislation have at least one additional reading before final passage. Mr. Revoldt, I did not care for your heavy-handed tactics when you replied that the legislation was going to be passed tonight.

I wonder how closely every member of this council has read through the agreement. Though some council members asked questions last week, it appeared to me that it was easier for some council members to coast along and rely on the law director’s legal craftsmanship of the document to protect the city and its taxpayers.

I would encourage every council member to closely review the “Construction Management Agreement” and then read the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report for the Hoover Company Facility.

Why are the concerns of the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment not addressed in the Construction Management Agreement?

Page 6 of the environmental assessment states that there is a substantial asbestos presence on the site and it is deemed an environmental concern. Page 39 of the environmental assessment recommends that “a new owner/occupant utilize an asbestos management plan when conducting any building renovation or demolition.”

Not surprisingly, there are many environmental concerns noted in the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment at the former Hoover Facility and there are recommendations made that deal with each of those concerns.

Why are these concerns not addressed in the Construction Management Agreement?

Who is going to ensure that those concerns are addressed? Who has the expertise to judge if those concerns are handled properly?

Will Maple Street Commerce choose to spend grant funds to implement management plans for asbestos, lead paint, concrete, groundwater, and other environmental issues as recommended in the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report over spending funds for planned renovations? Who will ensure that they do?

I can not see the Held Administration standing up to Maple Street Commerce and demanding that environmental issues be remedied over planned renovations. I do not see Maple Street Commerce alleviating environmental issues without a contract stating that environmental issues will be remedied.

Any Construction Management Agreement that is put in place needs to address environmental concerns as well as construction oversight with total objectivity.

I urge this council to not rush passage of this legislation and to implement an agreement that truly safeguards the city and the taxpayers.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton