JASPER, Tenn. — The Marion County Commission has ended its search for a new construction manager to oversee the building of a regional skills center in Kimball, Tenn.
In 2010, the board hired Steve Hudson of SKH Construction Enterprises in Whitwell, Tenn., for the job, but he died recently after a long illness.
County Attorney Billy Gouger said the board can't use the county's building inspector for the job because the current contract with the school's architect and the terms of the grant helping pay for the construction require an independent construction manager.
Commissioners voted this week to start contract negotiations with Dillard Construction Inc. in Dayton, Tenn.
Commissioner Jane Dawkins, the board's education committee chairman, said the panel went through "a pretty thorough process" and interviewed representatives of four companies for the job.
The construction manager basically serves as the county's "watchdog" during the various phases of the project, she said.
Dawkins voted against entering contract negotiations with Dillard, but she said the company was recommended for approval by a majority vote of the education committee.
Commissioner Gene Hargis voted against the move, too, and said he would rather see the work go to a local company such as STH & Associates Inc. in Kimball, Tenn., one of the four finalists for the job.
"On a job like this, the reason we chose Mr. Hudson was because he was a local," he said. "A lot of times, local folks, if they're qualified to do the job, care more about a project than if they're from Chattanooga or Nashville."
Hargis said he was concerned that the job was not put out for bid so the board could select the lowest available price from interested parties.
Gouger said the county is not required to seek the lowest price if it is seeking a "licensed professional."
"We've never done a lowest bid on a construction manager," he said. "We've always allowed the committees involved to interview and pick what they consider the best applicant. You certainly can solicit the lowest bid, but if you do that, you're stuck with the lowest bid."
The county must be careful when developing any contract of this nature so it can avoid inflated fees from any construction manager it hires, Gouger said.
"You have to negotiate a fixed rate," he said. "You have a maximum number before you ever start, so if there are change orders, the construction manager doesn't get any more money."
Officials said contract negotiations with Dillard Construction should begin soon.