AUGUSTA — City councilors are considering a new way of soliciting bids for major construction projects, which the city could use for the upcoming $11.7 million Lithgow Public Library expansion and renovation.

The alternative to the more traditional bidding process of having an architect draw up plans and designs and having general contractors bid on the project instead would involve a general contractor earlier in the planning and design process.

The method, known as construction management at risk, has been used on other large-scale public projects such as the Portland Public Library, the new $52 million courthouse under construction in Augusta, and the redevelopment by a private firm of the old Cony High School flatiron building into housing for senior citizens.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said the primary difference between the two methods is with the traditional method, an architect would design the project, contractors would submit bids to build what the architect proposes and, generally, the city would pick the contractor with the lowest bid to do the work.

In construction management at risk projects, the city selects a contractor early in the process and the selected contractor works as a sort of consultant with the architect on the design of the project. The contractor and city officials then negotiate a price not to be exceeded for the project, based upon what the contractor estimates it will take to build it once it is designed. That’s where the “at risk” part of the method’s name comes in. If the project can’t be built for the “not to exceed” price, it is possible the contractor could be responsible for some or all of the amount by which the project exceeded that price.

City Manager William Bridgeo said an advisory committee for the library construction project, which could get underway in the spring, has discussed using the construction management at risk method on the Lithgow project, which is expected to nearly triple the size of the library.

However, the construction management at risk method isn’t allowed now, or even contemplated, under the city’s procurement ordinance, which requires projects of more than $10,000 to be put out to bid via the traditional design and bid method.

On Thursday, city councilors are scheduled to consider a first reading, of two required votes, of an amendment to add construction management at risk as an option in the procurement ordinance.

Whether to use the method for the library project will be decided in the near future and is not part of the current proposal, though that possibility was why the proposed change to the procurement ordinance was brought up.

“The library restoration and expansion project is such a high-profile and important thing for Augusta, we want to make sure we do it in the best way possible,” Bridgeo said. “I understand there are pros and cons. But the folks I’ve talked to from the state of Maine, from the city of Portland, the city of Ellsworth, and others are so enthused about it that I think it is an important conversation for us to have. I anticipate people in the community who are general contractors may have their own opinions about this, and we welcome those.”

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• present signs for the recently renamed Jeff Gagnon Way to the family of the late Jeff Gagnon;

• consider the first reading, of two required, of a proposed zoning change that would add small distilleries, breweries and bakeries as allowed uses in some zones in the city, a change recommended by the Planning Board.

Bridgeo said the city’s land use ordinance doesn’t include any of those uses as allowed uses, so technically they aren’t allowed in the city, although the city has had multiple bakeries.

Bridgeo said the proposal to add those uses was prompted by a proposal from a Litchfield resident, Rob Coates, who would like to have a small, less than 5,000-square-foot bourbon distillery on property he owns on North Belfast Avenue;

• consider authorizing Bridgeo to offer a tax-acquired property at 94 Winthrop St. for sale;

• consider accepting a bid of $6,750 from Catherine Cobb and Julie Bernier for a tax-acquired, 6.8-acre property on Buckwood Road, which is assessed by the city for tax purposes at $21,900;

• hold a public hearing and consider granting a liquor license for a proposed new downtown bar, Shake it Up, at 335 Water St., formerly home of Riverback Dance Club;

• and read a proclamation recognizing the 40th anniversary of Capitol Area Recreation Association.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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