LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – An infrastructure financing bill for Michigan Public Schools sponsored by 109th District Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) has passed the Michigan House of Representatives. House Bill 5538 would allow schools to use a Design-Build procurement process for projects, allowing the project’s architect and builder to work under one contract while the school system remains part of the decision-making process.

The bill passed the House 74-29 and will now proceed to the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform. Cambensy says public schools are the only state entity in Michigan which does not allow the Design-Build process under law, and that Michigan is one of the last states in the nation to allow the Design-Build procurement process to be used for its K-12 public schools.

“When you allow for the design and the actual construction work to be bid separately, it can add to the project timeline and cost,” Cambensy said. “With the traditional design-bid-build process, there isn’t one sole entity responsible for the project. When disputes happen or the communication between the two breaks down, there is often finger pointing at whose fault it is, as costly change orders with public school board members and the taxpayers being surprised at the added costs. Design-Build would allows public schools to be at the table from the beginning, helping make small changes to the project along the way, cutting costs on items or design that might not be necessary at each major section of work being done.”

Cambensy says that under the current set-up, costly changes to a school’s bonded construction project can lead to cuts in school personnel when a high percentage of a school’s budget is allocated to staf salaries.

“Working in the public schools for 10 years, I saw firsthand how stressful change orders were on superintendents and school board members when they unexpectedly had change orders that added up to $50,000, $100,000 or even $200,000 over the proposed project budget,” Cambensy said. “Those cost overruns all of the sudden become potential job layoffs or FTE reductions, which can devastate classroom sizes, services or programs that public schools offer.”

Cambensy said Design-Build is currently utilized by state agencies including the Michigan Department of Transportation, Department of Management and Budget, Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and the Department of Natural Resources. Cambensy says the process helped save the City of Marquette’s Municipal Services Building Project when she served a Marquette City Commissioner.

“When a city has the chance to build a brand new state-of-the-art public works facility, it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and leadership has one chance to get it right,” Cambensy said. “With our budget smaller than anticipated at the time, the project goals, cost, and timeline we demanded were anything but desirable. Gundlach Campion guaranteed a similar building design to our original plan using a Design-Build process, which allowed our city department heads and engineers to help decide what changes could be made to get it done as we went. Having the responsibility rest on one contractor, who still used licensed engineers and architects and union labor, the team approach, attention to detail, and added communication between everyone, it was a win-win for everyone, especially the taxpayers. It’s a no-brainer that we should allow our public schools the option to utilize the same time and cost-saving procurement process with Design-Build.”