Osage County commissioners wrestle with owner’s rep question

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage County commissioners last week continued to consider the question of whether the county needs to hire an owner’s representation firm to keep an eye on expenses and the quality of work performed as the courthouse annex project moves forward,

District 2 Commissioner Steve Talburt expressed interest in hiring an owner’s representation firm.

”I think it is important for us to protect ourselves, to protect the county,” Talburt said.

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney said he thought an owner’s representation firm could potentially save the county enough money to cover the cost of hiring it. Yet he also expressed understanding of District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones’s concern about potentially paying a lot of money to have someone watch over the people actually doing the job.

Of the three commissioners, Jones has been the most resistant to hiring an owner’s representative.

The county board had on its June 21 agenda an item calling for discussion and possible action to enter into a contract with Cardinal Building Solutions, a company based in Collinsville. Jim Littleton, owner of the firm, quoted a rate of 2.25 percent of the project value. Littleton had previously met with the commissioners and explained the type of assistance Cardinal Building Solutions provides.

Jones said June 21 that he had been in communication with another company that could provide the same type of service.

Jones voiced an interest in getting the best possible deal in the event that the commissioners choose to hire an owner’s representative.

District Attorney Mike Fisher offered to help the commissioners handle the process of putting something on a meeting agenda if at least two of the three of them decide they want an owner’s representative.

Fisher expressed how he expects the process to work in a text message: “Anyone interested has been asked to communicate with the individual commissioners. Once we have a list of possibilities, the commissioners will let me know if they want a project manager. If two of the three say yes, then I will ask Robin (Slack) for an agenda item to vote on that and then a separate agenda item to approve whichever company they want to use.”

There was no item on the commissioners’ June 27 meeting agenda regarding the potential hiring of an owner’s representation firm..

In addition to the commissioners, the county clerk and the county assessor — who represent the entire county — have spoken in favor of having a representation firm. County Clerk Robin Slack has taken a leading role in nudging the representation issue along.

“I just feel strongly that we need to have someone looking out for our best interests,” Slack told the Journal-Capital.

Assessor Ed Quinton Jr. explained June 21 that he found it problematic that Littleton had been encouraged to come before the commissioners and quote his price, and then county officials started talking about the possibility of having Littleton’s company compete against others for the business.

”Whoever’s going to bid against him now knows his numbers and that’s not fair,” Quinton said.

During the June 21 discussion, the commissioners attempted, for purposes of illustration, to compare hiring an owner’s representation firm with buying additional insurance coverage on a car. Jones argued that spending money on additional coverage could limit the amount of money available for normal operations of the vehicle.

Quinton argued in response: “Then you don’t buy the car.”

Jones told the Journal-Capital that the construction engineer is already supposed to be representing the county’s interest and reporting to county officials. He added that each percentage of the project value that an owner’s representative charges will cost more than $100,000. A charge of 2.25 percent would be more than $200,000.

Jones said there is no way he can justify more than $200,000 for an owner’s representation firm.

”My problem is the money,” Jones said.