City will look for 'best value' in volleyball center bidders

Companies that bid next month to build a three-court expansion of Rochester's National Volleyball Center will be evaluated on more than just the price they offer.

Also factored into their selection will be bidders' ability to foresee project risks, their proposed construction schedule, their record of success on past jobs and representatives' performance in face-to-face interviews with city officials.

It's all part of what's called a "best-value" process for hiring private companies for public jobs. Rochester has made use of the process on a growing number of construction projects, including a new north-side public works garage, since 2007, when the Minnesota Legislature authorized its use by cities. Olmsted County and the Rochester school district have used it on construction projects, too.

The city will put the Volleyball Center project out for bid in early March and award a contract in April. The addition is expected to open about a year from now, said Park and Recreation Department Director Ron Bastian. A $4 million state grant is funding the project.

"The cream of the crop rises to the top" in a best-value selection process, Bastian said.


Cost will account for just 25 percent of the score to rate bidders for the Volleyball Center project. But on other projects, the winners often have been ones that offered the lowest price or a price near it, Bastian said.

The method of selection is geared to save money over the long haul because by requiring construction companies to anticipate potential risks, the city avoids paying later for scores of "change orders" — contract amendments struck during construction to account for unforeseen circumstances or revised plans. The "best-value" process shifts that risk from the city to the bidding companies.

And by making a company's past performance part of selection, the city conceivably winds up with a finished product that is better made and less costly to maintain.

The Volleyball Center expansion, at 22,000 square feet and with an estimated construction cost of $3.5 million, is among the smaller projects on which the city will use "best-value." Bastian said the intent is for his department to get experience with the process before using it on a planned $75 million expansion of Mayo Civic Center.

"Part of it is a learning tool," he said.

Dale McCamish, the department's director of sports facilities, will attend an upcoming training session in Arizona and become certified to administer best-value projects, Bastian said. City Engineer Richard Freese and city Development Administrator Doug Knott will also attend.

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