Governor Waives Contract Regulations For Fast U. Iowa Reconstruction

This story was written by Mike McDonald, The Daily Iowan

Construction firms will not be able to compete for contracts with the University of Iowa during its flood rebuilding efforts.

Gov. Chet Culver signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency on Monday, suspending construction bidding practices for UI campus buildings that were damaged by the flood.

The state Board of Regents is typically required by state code to advertise for bids for any construction or remodeling project that exceeds $100,000 and award the work to the lowest responsible bidder. But facing excessive damage and with fewer than two months before fall semester, the regents are taking alternative steps to ensure university operations, UI spokesman Steve Parrott said.

Troy Price, the interim communications director at the governor's office, reported that most Iowa public entities have some sort of competitive bidding exemptions for times of extreme emergencies.

The regents, however, do not have such an exemption and had to request one.

"We will do whatever it takes to rebuild the university," Price said, reporting that Culver quickly signed the regents' request.

Parrott said the UI plans to hire contractors who have done previous projects on UI's campus.

"We will work with reliable contractors who we know will give us a good price," he said.

The normal advertising and bidding process can take years, he said, and the proclamation is designed to expedite construction and remodeling of buildings affected by the flood.

"Normally, you want time to plan," he said. "These are extraordinary circumstances, and we need to be up and running by the time school starts in the fall."

The contractors' familiarity with many of the buildings will help the procedure run quicker and smoother, he said.

"Most of these firms have specs and blueprints and will be able to put things back they way they were 30 days ago," Parrott said.

Some Iowa City construction companies have never heard of a plan like this.

Frantz Construction has done remodeling work at the university before, including a recently completed project at the UIHC.

Gene Nissley, the vice president of Frantz, is unsure how the policy will affect his company.

"This is the first time I have heard of suspension like this," he said. "I would think that [projects] should still be advertised."

He said the process could add extra cost to contracts if contractors know there is no competition.

This year's flood has caused damages to 20 major UI facilities as well as crucial utilities.

Doug True, the UI senior vice president for Finance, said in a statement that the university will work closely with the regents to ensure that only the essential projects will be undertaken through this process.

The proclamation will remain in effect as long as Johnson County maintains its disaster status.

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