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Arena program manager about to get terminated

Haymarket arena construction

Construction workers near the site of a diesel spill that's being removed from the area where a new arena will be built west of the Haymarket.

Well, it finally happened.

I believe we now know what the private, closed-door JPA meeting was all about a few weeks ago, when the public was kicked out of an arena board meeting for an “executive session” about a “personnel matter” “to prevent needless injury to reputation” while “discussing work performance on the project.”

The program manager in charge of Lincoln’s $340 million arena project is about to get canned — and replaced by their subcontractor.

Rumors that the city is not happy with the performance of the program manager overseeing the arena project will come to fruition this Friday when the Joint Public Agency votes to end its $4.3 million contract with a Virginia-based company called SAIC. At least, that’s what’s on the JPA agenda. A draft of the termination letter is even there, although it doesn’t say why the contract is being ended, other than “for the convenience of the JPA.”

The LJS reported this morning that the JPA plans to terminate its contract with SAIC this month.

Of course, city officials tried to put their best spin on this development (which is no surprise to those on the inside of this project), with arena guru Dan Marvin saying they just came to the conclusion that the project was too top-heavy with managers. I remember early on in this process when the organizational chart was coming together I expressed concern to Marvin that it was difficult just keeping straight Who’s was on What base. The organizational chart is headed up by the three-member JPA (mayor, Councilwoman Jayne Snyder and UNL Regent Time Clare). Then city elective officials are ostensibly below the JPA. Then the program manager, SAIC, whose main man in Lincoln is Jim Martin of Missouri.

Then below him is an arena project manager (they just concentrate on the arena). And then there’s the team of marketers, architects and construction manager Mortenson Construction. Are you getting confused yet? I don’t even know where Dan Marvin fits into the chart, quite frankly.

I’ve never built an arena, but that chart alone made my head spin. But from what I’ve heard, it’s not just that the process is top-heavy with too many cooks in the kitchen — Martin’s performance has been causing consternation since last fall, but I’m told our controversy-averse mayor didn’t want to do anything about it until after the spring election. SAIC was working under temporary contracts from August until March, when the JPA went ahead and signed a permanent $4.3 million contract (which makes no sense if they were concerned about the company, does it?). The contract allows the JPA to pull out with just 10 days notice and no cause — which is probably why Marvin and Snyder refused to tell the paper whether they were concerned about Martin’s performance.

Although Snyder was willing to say the two sides are “leaving on good terms.” Really?

Marvin said the city used a program manager for the $240 million Antelope Valley Project, but doesn’t really need one on this project. You telling me this project isn’t just as complicated as that one? This one costs about $100 million more, for starters, and involves moving an active rail line, construction near an active rail line, remediation of a contaminated rail yard and construction in a flood plain — to name a few issues.

Another interesting twist: SAIC’s subcontractor, PC Sports (Paula Yancey) will continue working for the city. (I’m told city officials love PC Sports.) And the JPA will vote to appoint PC Sports the interim program manager on a month-to-month basis — in other words, the subcontractor will take over the main contractor’s gig. But it appears the JPA intends to hire PC Sports on a permanent basis, because the draft contract language says the two will meet promptly to come up with a new agreement and compensation for PC Sports to be the program manager. In a letter to the mayor’s office, Yancey proposes that her company’s fee increase from the current $30,450 per month to $98,500 beginning Aug. 1.

Apparently, this job doesn’t have to be re-advertised for bids.

Oh, and the contract contains this nifty paragraph: “All services, including reports, opinions and information to be furnished under this Agreement shall be considered confidential and shall not be divulged, in whole or in part, to any person other than to duly authorized representatives of the JPA, without the prior written approval of the JPA or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”

How’s that for transparency?

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