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Contractors Get Say in CVC Timing

The contractor chosen next month for the second phase of the Capitol Visitor Center project will wield considerable influence over many aspects of the construction, but perhaps none more important than timing.

CVC spokesman Tom Fontana said last week that contractors submitting bids for the second, and final, sequence will let the Architect of the Capitol know whether a partial opening for the 2005 presidential inauguration is feasible within budget and how that would affect the final completion date.

“It’s really going to depend on what the contractors are going to tell us,” Fontana said.

The contract for the second sequence, which includes electrical, plumbing, mechanical and finishing work, is set to be awarded at the end of March or early April. Pricing proposals were due Friday.

“We expect that contractor to tell us what they can do” in terms of completion dates, Fontana said. [IMGCAP(1)]

A series of amendments added to the request for proposal for the second sequence over the past several weeks have loosened some of the timing requirements, which could mean a new schedule would need to be presented to the House and Senate leadership for approval when the contractor is selected.

Two of the amendments “removed any hard requirements in terms of any completion stage,” Fontana said.

“Based on the oral presentations that were made by the contractors, we realized that some of the language within our previous amendments or within the proposal request itself was a little bit restrictive. … We provided them a little bit more flexibility than trying to tell them exactly what we expect to have done in terms of the inauguration and so forth,” Fontana said earlier this month.

“That’s really what we are looking for: to give them a little more flexibility and a little more room to be creative in how they can meet our requirements,” he said.

But Fontana emphasized that the East Front will be “substantially complete” by January 2005, enough to accommodate basic inaugural activities such as motorcades and staging areas for the media.

“There are certain things built into that contract. They must have the plaza complete to accommodate pedestrian and vehicular traffic” by January 2005, he said.

That means the installation of granite pavers on the plaza, skylights that will form the roof of the 588,000-square-foot center and other features necessary to accommodate activity on the East Front will be completed.

“There’s a level of support that’s understood. We’ll have the roof deck on. We’ll support the inauguration,” he said. “The contractors will tell us what [more] they can do by that time frame.”

As far as a partial opening for the inauguration: “It’s something we’ll shoot for,” Fontana said.

The question of when the subterranean facility will open, and what role it will play in the inauguration, has loomed over the project since its inception.

Although the most optimistic proposals — envisioning a full rollout in time for the 2005 inauguration — have long since been cast aside as unrealistic, officials talked as recently as last fall about using the facility to screen visitors for the inauguration.

At a conference in October to garner interest in the sequence-two bid, an executive with Gilbane Building Co., which is managing the entire project, said officials were shooting for a “soft opening” in January 2005.

In an interview at that time, CVC project administrator Peter May said that meant the center would handle “limited functions to support the operation of the inauguration,” adding that although there wouldn’t be events held there, the facility would be open to screen visitors and provide a centralized entrance to the Capitol.

Fontana explained that a partial opening for the inauguration could complicate the construction and perhaps even change the final completion date — issues addressed by the contractors in their pricing proposals submitted Friday.

“Sometimes there’s a lot more work that can be done but it costs a lot more money,” Fontana said.

The General Services Administration, as the government’s procurement manager, will evaluate those pricing proposals. A decision is expected within weeks.

And even as the Architect of the Capitol is preparing for the selection of the contractor, guidelines are being set to determine what will constitute “partial government acceptance,” “substantial completion” and eventually “final acceptance” of the project.

In another amendment to the contract this month, the AOC set forth what guidelines will be used to determine AOC’s acceptance during various stages of construction. The most important of these is probably “substantial completion,” which is when the building will be almost fully operational.

“Substantial Completion is defined as that state when the Contractor has complied with the Contract requirements, except for minor deviations, and the project is sufficiently complete and capable of being occupied and used by the Government for the intended purpose,” the amendment states in boldface print.

It goes on to outline the steps the contractor would follow and the inspection procedures to evaluate whether this stage has been reached. The target date for “substantial completion” is September 2005, Fontana said.

“What we understand it to mean is that we should be able to operate the facility,” he said. “We put a final completion date after that to just give us a little bit of a buffer.”

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