Architects’ presentations impress county officials

Architects’ presentations impress county officials

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

After much behind-the-scenes maneuvering by construction firms and Winnebago County board members, all four teams vying for the lucrative jail construction manager position made their sales pitches to the county board last Thursday. The board is expected to choose the team for the estimated $2.2-$3.3 million contract May 8 at the board’s next regular meeting.

While some of the presentations by representatives from Fridh/Alberici, Sjostrom/Boldt, Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson/Bovis and Stenstrom/Gilbane were more theatrical than others, many board members said the teams had strong presentations and equally strong credentials. None of the board members interviewed were willing to go on record about which team they considered to be the favorite. However, many felt the odds were in Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson/Bovis’ favor.

All the teams addressed similar issues and questions such as jail construction experience, past minority inclusion in projects and during future jail construction, past use of union and non-union labor and insurance safety record. Each team session consisted of a 30-minute presentation with a 15-minute question and answer period, which was timed and strictly enforced by jail Project Manager Gary Burdett.

Notable absences from witnessing the presentations were Winnebago County Board Chairman Kris Cohn (R), and board members Chris Johnson (R-4) and Patti Thayer (R-9). All supported the previous selection process that recommended the Stenstrom/Gilbane team, which mirrored the jail architect selection committee process (see jail architect article on page 1).

On April 2, a committee assembled by Cohn selected the construction team of locally-based Stenstrom companies and the Rhode Island firm Gilbane Construction, as the construction manager. However, questions were raised about the team after The Rock River Times articles and broadcasts on WNTA’s Chris Bowman Show (1330-AM) addressed the choice.

County board members went through a list of similar questions for each of the teams. After the standard questions were answered, specific ones were asked. The question and answer period provided interesting and heated exchanges.

Reggie Taylor’s (D-12) question to Gilbane Project Manager Mark Karaskiewicz about his involvement in the construction of District One Chicago Police Headquarters, provided the most fireworks of the evening. Taylor addressed the question directly to Karaskiewicz. However, another Gilbane representative tried to answer the question for Karaskiewicz.

Taylor reminded the representative that the question was for Karaskiewicz. Karaskiewicz answered the question by saying he wasn’t pulled from the Chicago project because police officials were unhappy with his performance, but because he went on to a new project.

Taylor also questioned Gilbane’s use of non-union labor in Texas. The Gilbane representative did not directly address Taylor’s question but explained that the company uses union labor where it is required. Texas is a right-to-work-state, which does not require that non-union workers be paid the same as union laborers. Gilbane’s answer drew laughter from union representatives in the audience.

Jim Hughes (D-11) commended the Sjostrom/Boldt team for being the only presenters to discuss practicing the highest ethical behavior during construction of the jail. Pearl Hawks (D-6), Tuffy Quinonez (D-11) and George Anne Duckett (D-12) repeatedly asked questions regarding the teams’ inclusion of minorities in past construction projects and plans for their inclusion in the jail’s construction.

As a result of the presentations, county officials including Taylor, are trying to answer why Winnebago County’s jail project of 976 beds for $110 million is similar in cost and size to New York City and Milwaukee. Boldt construction recently completed a 1,000-bed jail in Redgranite, Wis., for about $56 million.

John Fridh, president of John Fridh and Sons, Inc., began the presentations. Fridh addressed the politics that altered the original selection process for the much-sought-after position. Citing his college degree in political science, Fridh said “politics is the peaceful way to solve conflicts.”

Fridh’s presentation did not use placards, videos, computer simulations or other visual aids, as did other firms. However, board members were impressed with the presentation’s content. Fridh said his team is the only one that has worked together for many years. Specifically, Fridh cited his more than 20-year working relationship with Alberici Construction at sites such as the Daimler-Chrysler factory in Belvidere.

Addressing the strong labor union presence that showed up to protest hiring the Stenstrom/Gilbane team, Fridh pulled his carpenter’s union card from his wallet and said he has been a card-carrying union member for 35 years. A speaker for the next presenter, Stenstrom/Gilbane, tried to duplicate Fridh’s demonstration. However, the Gilbane speaker said he did not have his union card with him.

The Stenstrom/Gilbane team had the best public speakers, and used computer simulations and placards to emphasize their points. As to their safety record, Gilbane cited their Experience Modification Rate (EMR) of 0.32, Stentrom said his company’s EMR is 0.85.

The EMR is a measure of a company’s safety performance, as calculated by the insurance industry. The rating is not public information, according to federal officials. A lower EMR gives agencies a better idea of the company’s safety record. All the teams cited EMRs below 1.0. The National Electrical Contractors Association Web site indicates EMR is used to calculate workers’ compensation insurance costs. The association recently sponsored a study that sought companies with EMRs 0.80 or below but preferred 0.65 or below.

Here is a list of the different teams’ EMRs: Fridh 0.80; Alberici 0.72; Bovis 0.40; Ringland-Johnson 0.90; Scandroli 0.96; Boldt 0.59; Sjostrom 0.93; Stenstrom 0.85 and Gilbane 0.32.

Joel Sjostrom president of Sjostrom and Sons, Inc., said EMRs can be affected by the number of office to trade workers in a company. If a company has a greater number of office workers than trade workers, the EMR of the company will be lower. Also, the number of sub-contractors a firm hires may lower a company’s EMR because the rating only affects the workers for the company actually performing the work.

Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson/Bovis emphasized their experience in building the current county jail, satellite jail and juvenile detention facility. The team also built jails in Boone and Stephenson counties.

Brent Johnson, president of Ringland-Johnson, Inc., was construction manager for several Rockford Public School projects in the 1990s. Johnson acknowledged that minority inclusion during construction of Ellis and Barbour schools and the Science Academy, were not as high as he would have preferred. Johnson said to correct past minority hiring “mistakes,” he has hired local developer Oliver Emmerson as community coordinator.

Sjostrom/Boldt also emphasized their jail building experience, primarily in Wisconsin. Boldt’s minority program director said if hired, they would hold informational meetings, identify local minority construction firms and actively recruit minority participation. Similar promises were made by all four of the teams.

Video testimonials from the former CEOs of Woodward and Sundstrand, AP Trucking and the sheriff in Oshkosh, Wis., emphasized the team’s jail construction experience and delivery of projects on time and under budget.

The vote for the construction manager will be May 8 at 6 p.m. on the eighth floor of the county courthouse, 400 W. State St.

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