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Three tips for working with an owner’s rep

How your small municipality can help make capital projects a reality

By Robin Power

The Harbour Grace Wellness Centre celebrated its grand opening Monday night. This new facility will promote wellness by providing the community with a fitness centre, walking track, multi-purpose room, and an NHL-sized ice surface.  And one component that helped the people of Harbour Grace arrive at this day, the launch of a successful capital project, was their decision to work with an owner’s representative.

But what is an owner’s rep? What do we do? And how do we help small municipalities make their capital projects a reality?

Harbour Grace is a small community – with a population of just 3,000 people. There are many such small communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. But, just like in large urban centres, the residents of small communities have needs. The people living these towns need roads cleared, access to clean water, community centres, parks and town halls.  But where larger municipalities and urban centres might have the in-house expertise of their municipal staff to guide the process of building community centres and parks, small municipalities frequently do not. Why? Unlike large, urban centres, the municipal governments in small communities are often made up of volunteers or part-time staff. These are often men and women who are actively involved in their communities, but don’t necessarily have the expertise required to see a capital project get off the ground and get built. This complex process can involve navigating relationships with the province, managing contractors, and, overall, dealing with all the push and pull that comes in between.

I like to equate the process to a home renovation. A large capital project brings the same anxieties. You ask yourself questions like: Am I spending the right amount? Do I have the right permits? Do I need engineering studies?  An owner’s rep has the answers based on previous experience. We serve as a guide for small municipalities. We help review tenders, manage contracts, keep an eye on costs and manage contractor relationships.

But a smaller community means a smaller tax base – and smaller budgets. So it’s natural that small municipalities might feel hesitant to hire an owner’s rep. Some might feel inclined to try and ‘wing’ it on their own.

So, if you’re part of a small municipality and you feel a bit intimidated about hiring a consultant, here are three tips to help you in the process:

Build a relationship
A good owner’s rep should become a part of your team, your community. Find someone who is approachable and down to earth – but who also has the expertise you need.

Pay now – pay later?
If you feel tempted to save the cost of a consultant by going it alone on a capital project, consider: Do I have the expertise to steer the project? How will I get it back on track if we go off the rails? Often, trying to address issues that arise will cost you more than turning to professionals for support at the outset of your project.

Your owner’s rep is on your side
When you start a relationship with an owner’s representative, you are the boss – and they’re on your side. A good owner’s rep will always be looking out for your best interests, will be your sounding board and champion, and will strive to get you the best value for money.

Undertaking major projects may seem like a gigantic task to some municipalities if there isn’t a measureable end goal.  But an owner’s rep has the expertise to help you realize your vision while keeping your best interests in mind.  Working with an owner’s rep creates a great opportunity to build relationships while achieving your goals – together.

A good owner’s rep should become a part of your team, your community.

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