The building arm of Utah's government is being whacked off at the shoulder - and that, according to state building officials, is good news for taxpayers and for efforts to finish state projects within budget and on time.
By directive of the Utah State Legislature, the Division of Facilities and Construction Management is reorganizing, and in doing so will eliminate nearly all in-house architect, inspector and engineer positions.The work these employee have done will be contracted or "out-sourced" to the private sector in the future, said Bob Wood-head, division deputy director.
"It's always difficult in a reorganization. There is a morale issue, but I feel we're handling it well," he said.
When the reorganization is completed within the upcoming months, between seven and 11 employees who worked as architects, inspectors and engineers will lose their jobs, he said. Seven of these employees already have left the division to take jobs outside state government, he said.
"We will have fewer people, but we also will be better organized, more focused, and we will have a better perception by the people of the state of Utah."
Rich Byfield, who became division director 21/2 years ago, emphasized that the reorganization "isn't a negative thing at all. It's a strong, internal look at ourselves." Byfield also is an architect.
The change is necessary to move the division ahead. "We don't need to be the hurdle you jump through but the hand that agencies reach out to for capital outlay development," he said.
The division, part of the state's Department of Administrative Services, has been in flux since the Legislature made its directive known about a year ago.
It was a simple effort to cut excessive state government, said Rep. Gerry Adair, R-Roy, co-chairman of the General Government and Capital Facilities legislative committee, which initiated many of the changes.
Adair and other lawmakers wanted to make sure DFCM was "lean and mean. They needed to be big enough to oversee state building - you have to have someone there that has oversight and the interest of the government and the state of Utah in mind - but not so big that they became totally independent and totally out of our control either," Adair said.
During the 1997 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill authorizing DFCM to use the "design/build" method and placing restrictions on the "construction/management" method.
Lawmakers cut DFCM's 1998 operating budget by $300,000 and trimmed it again in this year's legislative session.
Although the division has good people who do a good job, DFCM's old way of bidding and building was outdated, said Ron Halverson, chairman of the State Building Board, a six-person board appointed by Gov. Mike Leavitt.
"As we began looking at what they're doing, it appeared DFCM was trying to micromanage," he said.
The division's traditional approach to building - to get a bid for the design, then bid the job, find out the cost of the job, build it and then adjust the cost - just isn't feasible in today's competitive, fast-track market.
In renovating Rice Stadium at the University of Utah, officials are using the more efficient "design/-build" contracting method. The stadium is basically being designed as it is being built.
Contractors have committed to a "fast-track" finish. The stadium has to be ready for the fall football season, and builders face huge penalties if they aren't done.
The design/build approach is saving the project about $20 million.
"They had to have it done in 18 months," Woodhead said. "If we had bid the project the conventional way, that never could have happened."
Halverson also estimates the new Scott Matheson Courts Complex, a just-completed 417,000-square-foot behemoth on State Street, would have taken two to three years longer the old way.
Officials estimate a $300,000 to $500,000 annual cost savings for taxpayers after the reorganization.
Halverson emphasizes no one was doing a bad job. "This did not come about because of a witch hunt," he said. "A change in philosophy, a change in the economy dictated these changes."
Still, the division is struggling to adjust.
February's issue of The Building Block, DFCM's in-house newsletter, included an article written to help employees during the division's reorganization.
The article recommends a book by Price Pritchett and Ron Pound: "The Stress of Organizational Change."
"Everyone at DFCM agrees that these are high-pressure times," the article says. "We are all tired, overdosed on change and sick of ambiguity and uncertainty."
Byfield acknowledges the impact on employees but believes the reorganization is vital to the division's efficiency.
"It does create stress. We know it's a tough dilemma when people's jobs are on the line."