For Immediate Release:
Jason Holm, 612-713-5310
Larry Dean, 612-713-5312
Midwest Region CAD Team Leads Way in ARRA Contract Execution
Cheers may have echoed as the Region learned it would receive $28.5 million for more than 70 ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) projects, but those likely also included some initial gasps. Gasps from the soon-to-be-formed regional team that realized the mountain to be climbed to get that bulk of projects contracted for the work to begin meant sprinter paced turnaround times.
Those gasps have turned back to cheers again as the professionals from the Construction and Acquisition Division lead the Service in climbing that steep mountain and moving the paper needed so the construction teams could focus on moving dirt.
With a seemingly overwhelming load of projects to bid and award, layered atop an already full load of the year’s regular projects, ingenuity was a key to success for the Construction and Acquisition Division team. Undaunted by the challenge, their staff worked long and productive hours to set the Service standard in awarding all contracts and grants for $28.5 million in ARRA projects.
“With an additional 70-plus contracts to design and award, and extensive review and oversight guidelines, like 5-page checklists atop the existing 6-page standard checklist, time didn’t allow for any slip ups. We needed a strategy and I believe my team came up with a winning formula that we applied to handle the challenge,” said Cathy Vanatta, Chief of the Construction and Acquisition Division.
“Time and time again, I see the people in this Region face what might seem like insurmountable challenges at the time and take care of business in such an outstanding fashion. The value to this Region from the ARRA projects is huge for the resource and our work with the resource, and the CAD staff put forth an equally huge effort to move this to the next hurdle toward accepting completed work from our contractors. Yet another job well done by those folks.” said Tom Melius, Regional Director.
One of the key contract strategies used that allowed Vanatta and her staff to reach their goals was the use of MATOCs (Multiple Award Task Order Contracts). MATOCs are pre-placed contracts that are competed for and that successful contractors are pre-qualified for. This enabled an abbreviated solicitation and negotiation period in awarding each project.
Vanatta said, “We awarded 4-5 contracts per state to the most qualified firms and then could compete specific projects by price among those firms in the area. The result was quality competition for projects without the typical 51-day advertisement period.”
Chris Jensen, Assistant Regional Director of Administration, said, “I’m so proud of the great work from our entire staff in leading the way for contract awards for the Service. With the goals of ARRA being to move quickly and stimulate the economy, really within a 13-month window, the effort meant about a 300 percent increase in the entire Service’s annual construction and acquisition workload. An amazing feat by our staff.”
“The project rewards are many, for the resource and the communities where these projects are located. Fancy desks aren’t important, the resource and tools to work with the resource are,” said Vanatta. “There are the visible additions of new energy efficient visitors centers, additions of raceways at some of our hatcheries, habitat improvements, youth employment, private land partnerships and so much more. But just as important is the excitement and appreciation from the local people. It’s so touching when many have stopped by our field offices just to see the progress as the work begins. It’s just very gratifying to see that people are so happy after all the work that was involved to reach this point.”
Vanatta noted that, while leading the way in the Service in contract awards for the 70-plus ARRA projects, this really still signifies the beginning. “Now is when the real work begins,” she said “When shovels hit the ground and people are put to work in accomplishing the tasks laid out in each of these projects.
Yes, the work is begun, but Vanatta and her staff cleared many hurdles to help pass the baton to the people on the ground who would do that work. Awarding these contracts came with the unusual challenge of layers of reviews at the national level (looking at both new and existing rules), peer reviews, reviews of one another within her own staff, and the potential for audits all along the way to project completion.
“We’ve just had many, many more hoops to clear, Department review of anything over $1 million dollars, Service review if over $500,000, and any ongoing audit completion,” she said. “But thanks to our own regional leadership trusting in our abilities and refraining from micromanaging our efforts, we were able to get an amazing amount of work done very quickly. And, despite additional reporting requirements for contractors involved, there was still a tremendous enthusiasm to be a part of making each of these projects happen.”
The success the region is experiencing in these first phases of implementing the ARRA projects was also a result of the enthusiasm of individuals and companies in those local communities who raised their hand to take part in normally time consuming aspects such as construction inspection.
“We had 34 people alone who sent in resumes from as far away as Neosho, Missouri, for construction inspection. They not only brought with them some great credentials of work experience but they were obviously excited to be a part of this amazing initiative that benefits our resources. This saved on staff time and travel expenses as well.” she said. “And with MATOC, we’ve been able to benefit from relying on known contractors who subcontract a great deal of the project in those communities, which keeps the money spent in that local community.”
To put into perspective the effort of the regional contracting staff in completing the necessary work to move all of the ARRA projects through, Vanatta notes that this was the equivalent of completing over a year’s worth of contract awards within a tight 3-month window.
“There was a lot of strategy involved in meeting our requirements within the timeframe allotted. Each of the Service’s regions have some specific timeframes when construction work reaches its peak. Such as here where the cold weather season impacts what work can be done,” she said. “And bringing in known contractors with those high credentials also freed up the local engineering staff, who were just as inundated with these additional projects, so they could focus more on the detail work.”
It’s been a team effort, Vanatta pointed out, with close coordination by members of the region’s RAIT (Recovery Act Implementation Team), flexibility of staff members dealing with the normal turnover of employee retirements and those moving to new jobs, as well as the high level of enthusiasm and support throughout the way by regional management.
“Everyone is proud and will continue to be proud of the finished products. These are not inferior products. We’re talking about Visitors Centers with state-of-the-art energy efficiency and 40-50 year lifespan. The LEED certification, alone, means savings on operating expenses in a facility that will last a very long time.”
Much has been accomplished and much remains to be done as the projects head further down the tracks toward completion. “We’ve met and exceeded the paper goals in leading the Service in obligating funds for the projects, and now we will see those benefits in terms of shovel to dirt and putting people to work. And we’ll remain very involved in making sure that all specifications for these projects are met as we accept each of the finished products.”
Staff who contributed to the region leading the way in contract awards include: Craig Swedenborg, Sue Humphrey, Kim Maccani, Tiffany Breske, Pete Casillas, Elaine DeGroot, Carol Fix, Rick Hillard, Andrew McDermott, Erin McFadden, Marie Niesen, Lauretha Randle, David Swanson, Delores Aldinger, Jenessa Humphrey, Jamie Lewis, Meaghan Nelson, Dan Richardson, Jim Lindquist, Bill Wilson, Cheryl Schwartz, Scott Cadwallader, Terry Pennaz, Patrick Peine, Gary Hausdorf, Todd Criswell, Matthew Spielbauer, Mike Brickley and Ken Kaseforth.
Progress for the ARRA project at Jordan River NFH, "Raceway 1-8 Building" - Framing the south wall.
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