Nashville Firm Offers Project Management Services to Board of Education for New School Construction

February 15, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

While the Board of Education and County Commission have not yet reached an agreement on a new school construction plan, the school board has begun discussions with a Nashville firm whose mission is to help bring greater efficiency and cost savings to a building project by acting as the district’s “owner representative” in working with the architect and contractors.

During a work session prior to the regular monthly meeting Thursday night, the Board of Education and Director of Schools met with Ron Bargatze and Jamie Spencer of Hewlett Spencer, LLC who gave a power point presentation of what the firm could do for the school district.

“We are a design build company specializing in the construction of high quality government buildings, schools, jails, and administrative buildings at significant savings to taxpayers,” said Bargatze.

“We are an owner’s representative. We are hired by school boards and we are their single point of contact throughout the whole process. Everything flows through us. We handle the architect, general contractor, the civil and mechanical engineering. We take care of all that and during the process if you have a question, you call us. We have built over 100 schools since we started in 1993. Through the process we will give you an accounting every month of everything that is done. Once you adopt a plan then you never have to worry about us cutting corners or doing anything below standards. We call it one contact, one contract. You call us and we will take care of it,” Bargatze continued.

“We are a watch dog for your taxpayers’ money. We plan, design, build, and renovate municipal, county, and school buildings. This is all we do. We don’t build shopping centers. We build schools and municipal buildings for county governments but 95% of our jobs are for school work. As a full service owners’ representative firm every detail from program development to site selection and blue prints, construction is ours to manage,” said Spencer.

By utilizing the firm’s proprietary SmartBid process, Spencer said a Guaranteed Maximum Price is established to prevent cost overruns.

“Our process features completely open public bidding and value engineering for maximum value and efficiency. Our process eliminates risk to government officials and taxpayers for cost overruns and delays. We make sure program planning is thorough and that project funding is always spent responsibly. One of the biggest differences with our company is that we do not have change orders. We do not submit change orders to the school board after we give you a Guaranteed Maximum Price. Do we have things that happen on a job that are called change orders in the construction world? Of course. But we have a contingency account in our Guaranteed Maximum Price that is there to cover that. That contingency is transparent and its your money. We do not come back and ask for more money after you have approved a Guaranteed Maximum Price. If it goes over the GMP, it comes out of our pocket. But in 23 years of doing this we have never come in above our Guaranteed Maximum Price. We have come in under on every single project,” Spencer continued.

The fee structure for Hewlett Spencer, LLC is completely negotiable, and is included in the Guaranteed Maximum Price. The fee and savings incentive are negotiated on the front end of the project and given to the Board before the project ever begins.

“For example, on a project with a budget of $30 million, Hewlett Spencer would offer a two-tiered fee structure. First, we would request a negotiated fee to be a fixed amount of approximately 2% of the estimated cost of construction. This fee would be negotiated prior to the GMP, and would be paid in part during the construction process,” said Spencer.

“Second, a savings incentive would be created, which would be a share of the savings under the Guaranteed Maximum Price of 20% to Hewlett Spencer and 80% to the Board of Education. This incentive would be paid at completion of the punch list and receipt of all releases of lien”.

“Because Hewlett Spencer does its due diligence on the front end of all projects, which includes constructability analysis and quality engineering, we typically prevent the waste of 11.5% – 22% of hard costs of construction before you get the Guaranteed Maximum Price. And that amount far exceeds the estimated 2% fee for Hewlett Spencer,” he said.

Every Hewlett Spencer project is staffed by a full time construction superintendent with a minimum of 20 years experience. Licensed engineers of every discipline involved visit the jobsite weekly to insure the quality and correctness of the installed elements of construction.

No structural component (concrete, steel, masonry, etc) is ever installed without first being inspected by a member of the design team. Concrete, asphalt, mortar and reinforcing steel are all monitored and quality tested by an independent testing lab.

Finally, all work is certified monthly by a state licensed independent inspecting engineer who reports directly to the County Board of Education.

“We are very hands on throughout the entire process and our attention to detail is legendary. With our process you get more than a high quality building. You get something priceless: peace of mind,” added Spencer.

In addition to Spencer and Bargatze, the firm is run by the President of the Company, Steve Hewlett, a former member of the Tennessee Public Service Commission.

A Nashville native and Belmont University graduate, Mr. Hewlett owned and operated his own construction company from 1967 through 1986, building and developing residential single and multi-family units, commercial office, retail shopping, industrial warehousing, distribution and service facilities. Mr. Hewlett was elected to the Tennessee Public Service Commission in 1986, serving two terms. In 1996, Mr. Hewlett joined Hewlett Spencer, LLC as President and CEO and currently acts as the development team leader.

A graduate of Samford University and a Florida-born Southerner, Jamie Spencer moved to Nashville in 1995 to put his business degree and love for commercial real estate to work.

Spencer worked for several years as a real estate broker buying, selling, leasing and developing properties in Middle Tennessee, and in 2002, jumped at the chance to go into business with Steve Hewlett to put his real estate background into action in the construction arena.

Now, as a partner, and the on-site lead for all projects, Spencer is the person Hewlett Spencer clients and project partners go to for support and answers.

Bargatze is a native Tennessean, a graduate of Antioch High School, Belmont University and Middle Tennessee State University, as well as a former coach and teacher for Belmont University, Tennessee Tech University, Vanderbilt University, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Austin Peay State University.

Best known for his year’s of coaching and hundreds of wins, as well as his time spent on the airwaves as a color analyst for basketball on the high school and collegiate level, Bargatze understands Tennessee and the schools that make the state what it is, and that is why Hewlett Spencer has him on their team.

Responsible for business development and client relations, Bargatze works to team Hewlett Spencer with school systems in need of construction projects, and connects his firm to the many communities that he has been a part of in his educational career.

The workshop Thursday night served as only information gathering for the school board and no action was taken.