Only one bidder for Hidalgo County courthouse project

EDINBURG — Hidalgo County will begin negotiating with a Houston builder for the construction of the new courthouse.

County commissioners decided Tuesday to begin negotiations with Morganti — the sole bidder for the construction manager at risk position.

“Morganti is a 100-year-old company,” said Paul Kummer, director of construction development for the firm. “It’s been in Texas for close to 30 years, (and has) a pretty diverse background in terms of the geographic area that we work in and the types of projects that we work on.”

The firm’s website boasts an array of projects that include governmental facilities, buildings for schools and colleges, and at least three courthouses: the Kings County Criminal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, the Manhattan Family Courthouse in New York City, and the new Abu Dhabi Courthouse Complex in the United Arab Emirates.

Commissioners and representatives from Jacobs, the program manager for the project, scored the sole bidder separately and agreed Tuesday that Morganti was qualified to carry out the courthouse project.

And even though no other bids were received, the county and Jacobs ensured the process remained competitive, said Brian A. McIntyre, a senior project manager at Jacobs.

“It happens,” he said about the sole bid. “But because we suspected that it might be the case, we went ahead and used a one-step process, and what that did is, it made it so that these guys (Morganti) had to go ahead and commit to values on things like general conditions and fee in a competitive environment.”

General conditions and fee are generally considered overhead costs and profit margins.

“I’m confident that we got a competitive number,” McIntyre said.

The firm and two other potential bidders previously met with the county and the program manager to discuss details about the request for qualifications before the submission deadline. Morganti did not know it would be the sole bidder, he said.

“They knew there were multiple possibilities of people who were going to bid,” McIntyre said. “So, then it took time for them (Morganti) to put a number together — that’s what they had to consider.”

McIntyre also gave commissioners an update on the overall project.

HDR, the architectural firm, is under contract and nearing completion of a schematic design, he told commissioners Tuesday.

“HDR is working on their independent (cost) estimate of their design, as far as where it is today,” McIntyre said after the meeting. “Jacobs is also working on its own independent estimate.”

Both entities have spoken about bringing in a construction manager at risk so that they can also assess the budget and perform a constructability review for the courthouse.

“The schematic design is pretty early on,” McIntyre said. “That’s basically telling people this is the general idea. This is what the space could look like. We got a basic idea of how big the building is, where the walls are going to be — that sort of thing. As the design is further refined, so will the estimate.”

Kummer, of Morganti, said his firm understands the courthouse is a public project with limited funds.

“It’s obviously a very important project, so it’s important for us to be good stewards of the available funds … and complete it on time as needed for the community,” Kummer said.

Bringing his firm into the mix will help finalize the cost of the project.

“That way, when we go to full guaranteed maximum price and bid the project, we’re confident and comfortable we can hit that budget,” he said. “If there’s challenges, we go through the process and we talk to the design team.”

Morganti will, among other things, ensure value engineering and value management “not only for the upfront dollars, but as well as the life cycle of the building and operating costs down the road,” Kummer added.

“This project is a 75-year-plus building,” he said. “And this next building needs to have that kind of longevity.”

nlopez@themonitor.com