City to act as contractor for downtown projects

Published 2:58 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Weeks after rejecting all bids for two downtown projects in hopes of negotiating a better deal, the Andalusia City Council on Tuesday voted to act as general contractors for the renovation of the Andala Building and Clark Theatres.

In January, the city announced projects in which it would renovated the Andala Building to become the new home of Big Mike’s Restaurant, and renovate the existing Clark Theatre. The city already owned the Andala Building, and was gifted the theatre building by the O’Neal family.

Initial bids were higher than the renovation costs anticipated by RLS Design Group of Birmingham, which designed the projects.

“These architects gave us what they thought was their best estimate for legitimate pricing on what we wanted to do,” Mayor Earl Johnson said. “For the theater project, they added $400,000 in contingency.

“The bid we received was double what the architect projected cost to be. Obviously, (the contractor who bid) didn’t really want the job, but if we’d pay them double, they come down here and do it.”

Johnson said the city will subcontract work locally at a price believed to be reasonable.

“If it is work we can do for economically with our own forces, we will do it.”

The council agreed to force account projects totaling $800,000 for the Andala building and $1.4 million for the theater.

“That’s about what the architects told us to start with,” Johnson said. “We’ll get started as soon as we can.”

Council members also learned the city is renegotiating its lease with Big Mike’s.

Details have not been finalized, and the council will be asked to approve the new contract once it is finalized. The original contract called for an up-front investment of $100,000 from the owners of Big Mike’s, which currently operates three other restaurants.

Johnson said there have been internal changes in the company, and owners asked for the renegotiation.

The original contract calls for the city’s work on the facility to include the installation of an elevator, also estimated at $100,000.

Johnson said if the cost will fit in the scope of the planned project, the city will install an elevator, but it is no longer legally bound to do so.

The new contract also increases the amount of lease payments due to the city.

Work is expected to begin by the end of the month, he said.