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The Scoop - We can't cut costs with this situation
When I was a polite and highly efficient waiter back in the early 1990s, my manager used to hound me about one thing -- upselling.

As a waiter, you don't want your customers eating grilled cheese and drinking water. That leads to a low-cost meal. You want them ordering an appetizer, eating steak, drinking a cocktail, then splurging for dessert.

So my job as a waiter was to upsell, or get them to spend more money. A larger ticket helps the restaurant and it helps the servers, who are traditionally tipped on a percentage basis, say 15 percent. I'd rather wait on a table of six spending $80 than a little, old lady who will probably spend no more than $8.

My time as a waiter often comes to mind when I think about architects and their building projects. Whether it's the city spending $9 million to renovate the Civic Center, or the county spending $8 million for an expansion at the jail, there's an architect in place to design the plans.

One thing I've always found odd is architects work on a percentage basis. That percentage can be up for negotiation, but a pretty common rate is 6 percent.

That means if the architect is working on building a new school that costs $7.5 million, the architect will command a paycheck of $450,000. That's not a bad paycheck.

However, the architect will be able to afford a much bigger boat if he does a little sly upselling. If the architect can do some subtle maneuvering and get the new school to cost $10 million, he or she is suddenly bringing home $600,000.

It's easy to see how it's in the architect's best interest to make a building project as expensive as possible. Just like I would gently suggest the ribeye for anyone asking my opinion about what to order, the architect is going to try and sneak in as many additional costs as possible.

This goes directly against the needs of cash-starved governments like Warren County. We have an overcrowded jail and want to fix the problem as inexpensively as possible, but I guarantee you that's not what the architect wants.

We have older elementary schools in Bobby Ray and West. Our School Board would like to make a few upgrades as inexpensively as possible. Unfortunately, the architect doesn't share that same goal. Who wants to cut costs when your paycheck is a percentage of those costs?

I had to chuckle a few weeks ago when the county's jail architect urged county officials to proceed with jail expansion plans despite the lowest bid of $8.3 million coming in way above the $6.5 million projection.

"Although the overall cost is disappointing in that it exceeds the bid target, we believe this is a reasonable cost for the work in the current bid market,” said architect Allen Hill.

I'm sure 10 out of 10 architects would agree because this system is broken. An architect isn't going to try to reduce costs if it takes money from his own pocket.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.