General contractors have managed to get a foot back in the door with construction projects in the Provo School District.

Contractors have protested for months the district's decision to use a construction manager to oversee building projects.The Provo School District decided more than a year ago it could save money and ensure quality by hiring a construction manager to essentially operate as a general contractor on district projects. It hired a construction manager last January, who has since overseen the addition of a commons area, drama room and choral and music room at Provo High School.

But in response to complaints from general contractors, as well as the Utah Chapter of the Associated General Contractors, the district allowed both general contractors and its construction manager to prepare bids on an addition and remodeling project at Timpview High School, which will begin in February.

The low bidder: Tri Cor Associates of Salt Lake City, who bid $365,500 on the project. The construction manager's bid was $388,120.

General contractors filed complaints about the way the district advertised and structured bidding on the Timpview High Project but are happy about the outcome.

"I think this shows competitive bidding is a good way of building public buildings," said Richard J. Thorn, executive manager of the contractors' association. "I think the district will recognize that too now.

"The school district should be in the business of educating our youth," Thorn said. "Contractors are in the business of building buildings."

Provo Superintendent Kay W. Laursen said the school board decided last year to use a construction manager because the district "has not had a good history with the past four general contractors on jobs." One contractor went over his construction deadline and three didn't finish projects.

"Because of that they (the school board) decided to try this construction- manager approach," Laursen said. The manager has saved the district money, successfully shepherded several projects and provided the quality of work the district wanted, Laursen said.

General contractors and the contractors' association, which represents 400 construction companies, contend the district isn't really saving money because it isn't calculating all costs associated with use of a construction manager. The district also risks having to pick up the cost of work left unfinished by subcontractors, many of whom are not able to provide performance bonds for their work.

The school district minimizes that risk by purchasing all construction materials and equipment and making progress payment to subcontractors as work proceeds.

The contractors also said the district was violating state competitive bidding statutes, not getting competitive prices from subcontractors and taking work away from the private sector. The contractors say state statute requires school boards to seek outside, competitive bids on projects with price tags of $30,000 or more.

However, the code also encourages school districts to use "alternative methods of construction contracting management" where feasible, Laursen said.

In a letter to Laursen about the Timpview High project, Michael R. Tolboe, president of the Utah Chapter association, said the "ACG firmly believes that the best way to ensure that the taxpaying public receives full benefit of their tax support is to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Public Procurement Code, to competitively bid public-sector projects, and to award construction services to the most favorable and responsive bidder."

The Provo School Board will decide - perhaps at its next meeting - whether to follow the duplicate bidding procedure on a $1.7 million addition to Timpview High School, Laursen said. He added that the district will probably continue to use the construction manager on some projects.

However, the district will bid the construction manager position for such projects, he said.