LAWRENCEVILLE -- After a yearlong process to develop standards for Gwinnett government buildings, commissioners debated Tuesday not which standards should be set but whether the proposed manual would actually create cost savings.
Commissioner John Heard, who is an architect by trade, has talked about the necessity of such a guide for engineers and designers, prompting a committee of government project managers and staffers to meet for a year to develop a collection of standards for issues like roofs and air conditioning systems.
"It articulates a lot of things in writing that aren't always in writing," said Facilities Management Director Mike Plonowski.
But during Thursday's briefing introducing the document, some commissioners balked at the plan.
"Are we going to have markedly improved ... buildings over what we had before?" Commissioner Lynette Howard asked, wondering if standards should be set across the board for varying uses like libraries, fire stations or senior centers.
Heard said he was "shocked" to learn that the government did not already have a standards manual, which the county school system has for its facilities, adding that it could mean parts like light bulbs and air filters could be purchased at an economy of scale if all facilities used the same ones.
But Howard worried that the standards would keep architects from looking for innovations in designs.
Because the document names specific preferred products, Chairwoman Charlotte Nash had concerns about the fairness as applies to purchasing policies, even though equivalent products can be proposed.
Howard said the additional layer of standards could increase costs in bids, but Heard said there will be savings.
"My guess it's going to be in the millions of dollars," he said, although Plonowski said only time will tell what the cost to savings ratio will be. "I don't want us to be poor stewards of the public dollars in order to be cutting edge."
Commissioners asked the county staff to gather information from county governments with standards manuals, as well as the local school system, delaying a vote until February.