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Officials: Bidding Changes Needed

But they face opposition from members of the N.C. State Buildings Commission, who argue the current plan is the fairest for contractors and is cost effective for taxpayers. The SBC would have to approve any change in the bidding process.

Jeff Davies, UNC-system vice president of finance, said university leaders are proposing that construction projects operate under the Cost-Management At Risk Program, which requires a manager to monitor all construction projects.

Davies said UNC-system leaders will meet with the Board of Governors on Friday to further discuss the issue.

The system will formally present its proposal to the SBC on Jan. 23.

Davies said the proposed change is necessary because of the increased amount of projects funded by the higher education bond that was passed in November. "We have a magnitude of construction ahead of us that is unprecedented," he said.

Under the current multi-prime system, state-funded projects require four separate bids for general, electrical and mechanical maintenance and for plumbing, with each winner acting as a general contractor.

Davies said the new proposal would continue to allow for multiple bids but also would require a construction manager to monitor the progress of construction projects. "We believe construction managers will help us to monitor and manage construction projects more effectively," Davies said.

BOG Member Jim Phillips also said he believes a construction manager will help ensure projects are completed as efficiently as possible.

Phillips said he believes many state construction projects have run at a slow pace under the current system because of the multiple contractors involved.

"There is no central authority in the current system," Phillips said.

Bruce Runberg, UNC associate vice chancellor for facility services, said some campus construction projects have been delayed due to problems with contractors.

Runberg said campus officials were forced to cancel a contract for work on the School of Law building after a contractor failed to show up. He said the presence of a construction manager will result in fewer problems because the one person would be held accountable for the entire project. "It is better because we're dealing with one contractor instead of four," he said.

But SBC member Ronald Hinson said he opposes the proposed change in the bidding process.

"Multi-prime was proven, and still is proving, to be the best bidding program for North Carolina," he said.

Hinson, a licensed electrical contractor, said the current system provides a better opportunity for many contractors to compete for bids and is more cost-effective for taxpayers, according to a survey by the SBC. "Generally, there is a 5 to 6 percent savings under the multi-prime system," he said.

Davies said UNC-system leaders are hopeful that the SBC will approve the proposal so projects can be completed at a faster pace. "We believe it's an effective means of expediting the amount of construction we have as a result of the bond."

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