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Oxford parking garage plans could be delayed

Plans for the city’s downtown parking garage hit a small snag recently that could push off construction for a few months.

Last month, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved using a design-build method of construction, where one team would handle the entire project. State law puts extra regulations onto municipalities choosing this type of construction method, including mandating that an architect is hired to assist with creating the request for proposals and creating architectural drawings of the intended structure.

The city hired Howorth & Associates, which provided schematics on the proposed garage but left it very basic to allow contractors more creativity and flexibility in the design when they submitted their proposals.

However, the city recently learned that the final design submitted in the RFPs could not deviate significantly from the initial architectural drawings sent to prospective design teams and contractors.

“We were under the understanding it could,” said Tom Sharpe, chairman of the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission at the Oxford Board of Aldermen’s regular meeting on Tuesday. “Then our city attorney said state law precludes that.”

The city would have to go back to the design-bid-build method, where an architect or design team is hired to draw up the exact plans for the new garage; then those plans would go out to bid for a construction team.

“We need more discussion to get the final design,” Sharpe said since the original idea was to have design teams submit their ideas to a newly formed Parking Garage Design-Build Team Selection Committee.

“It’s going to cost us about four months,” said Mayor Pat Patterson.

Public Works Director Bart Robinson said the construction time is the same — about 12 months, however, the design-bid-build process takes longer.

“It will come down to how long it takes to design the garage before bidding it out,” Robinson said.

Sharpe said even with the delay, the construction of the garage should only occur during one football season.

The board voted to rescind the previous ruling to build the garage using the design-build method and voted to advertise for potential candidates to design the garage.