Lee said the primary responsibility of the “owner’s rep” is to make sure the county’s and the public’s interests are being protected.
What the county is doing, said Commissioner Bob Ott, “is hiring people we consider to be experts in managing these kind of construction projects. And so then they are there as sort of our eyes and ears to see what’s going on and to verify documentation.”
The county plans to issue up to $397 million worth of bonds to finance the construction of the stadium.
Lee said he hopes to have a firm selected and a contract for the commissioners to approve at their next meeting on Aug. 12, although he doesn’t want to make a hasty decision.
“They really haven’t begun coming out of the ground with the construction, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get it done. I just need to get it done in a timely manner.”
Lee said the owner’s rep will be responsible for making sure American Builders 2017, a joint venture of four firms contracted to build the stadium, is “doing what they said they’re going to do and … what they’re supposed to be doing.”
The county is looking to hire a company with experience in stadium construction specifically, Lee said.
“You can’t put somebody out there that’s an expert in building a school (to monitor) somebody building a stadium, so we’re looking for a firm that’s had some experience in management and construction of baseball stadiums.”
At their July 8 meeting, commissioners approved a list ranking firms they are considering hiring as the owner’s rep. Atlanta-based Heery International was the top-ranked firm on the list, which William Tommie Jr., the county’s purchasing director, said was based on experience, performance, financial stability and local vendor presence, among other factors.
According to their website, Heery International helped design Centennial Olympic Stadium/Turner Field in Atlanta, provided architectural and engineering services for the Georgia Dome, developed a master-plan to expand and enhance the University of Texas’ Darryl K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, and planned and designed the National Training Complex for U.S.A. Baseball in Cary, N.C.
Since approving the ranking, Ott said, the county’s purchasing department and county manager have been negotiating with Heery International on the scope and cost of a contract. If the county and Heery International cannot agree on terms, the county will begin negotiating with the second-ranked firm on the list, Brailsford and Dunlavey.
Brailsford and Dunlavey, based in Washington, D.C., assisted with design and construction program management for Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and consulted on the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, according to their website.
The owner’s rep will not have any authority over American Builders, Lee said, and their primary responsibility will be to monitor the process and report back to commissioners. Lee described the process of what would happen if the owner’s rep observed something they had a problem with.
“David Hankerson has been identified as our point person for that kind of stuff,” he said. “So, let’s say this guy finds something he disagrees with. He would bring that to David Hankerson, and David Hankerson would then bring it to me and the board to review. And then we would reach out to (Braves Executive Vice President of Business Operations) Mike Plant and the Braves to discuss it.”
Lee does not expect there to be any conflicts between the builders and the county, however, because any potential issue is likely spelled out in the development agreements the county has signed with the Braves.
Waiting to issue bonds
Though Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard validated the bonds the county plans to issue to finance the stadium Friday, the county cannot yet issue the bonds because there is a 30-day appeal period. An appeal would likely take two or three months, Lee said.
“If there is an appeal, we’ll have to go through the appeal process, which could take anywhere from 60 to 90 days depending on the courts, who, obviously, have to set their calendar as to when it would be heard,” he said.
Lee said because the project has such a high profile, he anticipated an appeal and has planned for it in the timeline.
“We’re moving along just according to plan and according to schedule,” he said. “Progress is being made in order to play ball in March of 2017.”
Although the Court of Appeals would normally handle a possible appeal, Lee said the Georgia Supreme Court has been hearing them directly because they are “pretty straightforward.”
He said he fully believes the Supreme Court will uphold Judge Leonard’s ruling because the bond issuance was designed knowing an appeal was likely.
“Now, there’s still some people, and we anticipate that people are going to say that they disagree with his ruling, but we’re pretty confident that our case is to the letter of the law and strongly supported not only by underlying legislation, but by court cases coming out of the Supreme Court as recently as two months ago,” Lee said.