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Gainesville officials choose local contractor for parking deck job
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Gainesville officials have chosen a local contractor to build the new downtown parking deck and plan to complete construction by July 2009.

Gainesville’s own Optum Construction Group Inc. submitted the lowest bid for the cost of building the city’s future 419-space parking deck that will stand in place of the current downtown deck by July 2009, Jarrett Nash, project manager for the construction, told City Council members Thursday.

The Gainesville construction company has promised a price of $6.14 million for building the new, four-level downtown parking deck, which will be constructed in a way that would allow for expansion to a six-level deck in the future, Nash said.

Council members George Wangemann and Danny Dunagan told Nash they were happy to see a local contractor chosen for a city construction project.

"It’s nice to see that," Dunagan said.

Dunagan had been a proponent of a possible ordinance that would allow council members to give preference to local contractors on city construction jobs even if they were not the lowest bidder for the job. The Ward 1 councilman backed off the ordinance in June when the state attorney general’s office issued an opinion that the city only can give local vendors preference over the lowest bidder if the construction job costs less than $100,000.

Despite the local aspect, Nash told council members that Optum had submitted the lowest bid and the quickest time frame for the construction.

The company plans to complete construction within 184 days. The second-lowest bidder had estimated construction could take as many as 298 days.

"Not only were they the lowest price, they presented the best schedule as well," Nash told the council of the chosen bidder Thursday.

If the council approves the contract Tuesday, Optum would begin work on the new deck at the conclusion of the holiday shopping season.

Nash told council members the total construction cost, including legal and consulting fees, should not exceed $6.85 million.

The city will pay for construction with bonds that could take up to 17 years to pay off, the city’s Chief Financial Officer Melody Marlowe told the council. The city will pay the debt using a special millage rate of 0.13 mills it charges taxpayers to finance the parking deck’s construction.

During construction, there will be a temporary 90-space parking lot located at 320 Maple St. The Greater South Supply Co. building on the property is being demolished to prepare the site for the temporary parking area, Nash said.

Drawn by architect Steve Hill, designs call for the future downtown parking deck, which will extend over the entrance to the Georgia Mountains Center, to have brick accents fashioned in a pattern similar to that on the downtown square. Unlike the current deck, the new deck will not have a "dungeon space" — Nash’s term for a basement level. Instead, the deck’s first level will be at street level, and will be built in a way that will allow for future additions.

A new downtown deck has been in the works for years. Adding on to the current deck proved too expensive for the city, in part because the 28-year-old structure does not meet modern building codes.

"Expanding parking’s been looked at from several directions," Nash said Thursday.