BISBEE — What to do with the shell of what once was City Hall has been a question hanging over the heads of the Bisbee mayor and city council for the past two years.

In a work session Tuesday, the council discussed possible approaches to reconstruct the burned three–sided building on Arizona St. in Warren. The issue is how to put the project out for proposals and bids; whether to assign the project as a design–build contract or a design–bid–build contract.

Architects Al Hopper and Ben Lepley explained the benefits of going with a design-bid-build project and told the council the city would have more oversight of construction because the architect and engineer team would work directly on behalf of the city and would oversee the construction.

The design–build option separates the architect and engineer from the city as the person would be an employee of the contracting firm.

With design–bid–build, the team would also monitor pay requests to be sure the city was paying for services rendered.

“We work with the client throughout the entire process,” Hopper said.

Mayor David Smith explained there was around $2 million to work with from the insurance money received from the fire that destroyed it in October 2017. There is $1.7 million left for building and $300,000 left for replacement of equipment lost.

City Manager Theresa Coleman pointed out if the city were to go with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, the city would be required to approve a design-bid-build contract.

Smith said he spoke with the USDA and was told the city could get a loan at 4.5 percent.

Coleman also said a loan request could be put out for proposals to banks and any one of them could have a lower interest rate than USDA.

Smith pointed out a number of citizens have offered their opinions on what should be done and the suggestions run the gamut from $2 million “was way more than we needed to spend” to others “wanting the Taj Mahal.”

“We need to come up with the best solution for the citizens of Bisbee,” he emphasized.

Councilman Luis Pawlik pointed out the city would need experienced staff to develop a design-build project.

Both Coleman and Public Works Director Jesus Haro said they have dealt with design-build projects.

Haro stated he did not have the time it would take to prepare the documents and would still need someone to help with the detail.

“An inexperienced staff should not go with a design and build scenario,” Pawlik said. “I agree with the architects and the design-bid-build process.”

The council plans to make the final decision at the council meeting its Sept. 17 meeting.

Coleman wanted the council to know a University of Arizona professor of architecture was bringing seven or eight students down to devise a design for the city hall as an academic project.

Smith said it was always a pleasure to work with the students from UA and Arizona State University.

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