Little Dixie selected as 911 Center Contractor

Little Dixie Construction of Columbia was selected Tuesday as the contractor to build Boone County’s 911/emergency operations center.

Two of the other four firms bidding on the project had lower bids but were not selected because of their projected completion dates or less-than-stellar references. Little Dixie’s bid of $9.9 million was the third-lowest among the five bidders.

Melinda Bobbitt, Boone County director of purchasing, told county commissioners Tuesday morning that the county’s project consultant and architects were part of a panel that reviewed the bids and recommended awarding the project to Little Dixie, which targets “substantial completion” by March 29, 2016.

“I know a lot of hard work went into getting it to this point,” said Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill. “I know how complicated and tedious it is to review a project of this size.”

Project consultant Mission Critical Partners said in a letter to commissioners that Little Dixie’s bid “represents the best balance between cost, time for completion and qualifications for the project.”

Orf Construction of Bridgeton had the lowest bid of $9.58 million. Orf was selected by the Columbia Board of Education to build a new $16 million elementary school off Scott Boulevard. But Orf’s bid review had “mixed references,” Bobbitt said, and the latest substantial completion date — Aug. 31. That date would likely negate any cost savings from the lower price, said Kathy McMahon, project manager for Mission Critical Partners.

The second-lowest bidder, Wright Construction Services Inc. of St. Peters, had the earliest completion date — Jan. 2, 2016 —but was previously disqualified from a large project for the University of Missouri-St. Louis and had multiple questions about references and past performance, officials said.

Timing of the project is critical to cost savings and efficiency, McMahon said.

Occupancy of a new building such as the new 911/emergency operations center typically happens three months after “substantial completion” of the building, McMahon said. During that time, technology and furnishings for “mission-critical systems” are installed and tested. Purchase of those systems and furnishings is typically done four to six months ahead of that target date.

The technology budget of $8.7 million is based on purchasing those components during the fourth quarter of 2015, with delivery and installation during the first quarter of 2016. Delaying those purchases would increase technology costs, McMahon said. Orf’s bid package would have delayed the occupancy date to sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2016.

“It is our opinion that it is unwise to plan for transition to the new facility at this time of year,” she said.

Other bidders were River City Construction LLC of Ashland, $10.15 million; and Professional Contractors and Engineers Inc. of Columbia, $10.34 million. The Boone County Commission opened the bids on Dec. 23.

The commission is expected to approve the sale of bonds on Thursday and will open bids for the bond financing on Jan. 22, said County Treasurer Nicole Galloway. The county expects to issue $14 million in special obligation bonds to finance the project.

The new facility, located on the sheriff’s department campus just north of Columbia, also will house the 911 dispatching service currently located in city quarters downtown. All 911 center employees became county employees on Jan. 1.