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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Columbus continues restructuring the way it handles its public works and capital improvement projects and oversight.

The City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to pay J5/Broadhauss $90,000 a year, 6 percent of project costs, and in some cases, expenses, to act as a project manager on city work. The contract also includes helping oversee some day-to-day public works operations.

Under heated questioning from Councilmen Bill Gavin and Charlie Box, company representative Tim Easterling said the move could save taxpayers money by having someone representing their interests rather than the interests of designers, architects and engineers.

The city is getting away from using an engineering firm and hopes the move will eventually save money by cutting down on what the city was paying Neel-Schaffer Engineers to handle city work.

Some political missteps by the company also contributed to its conflict with the city.

Critics say it could end up costing more because the city still will have to hire out work by surveyors, architects and engineers. They claim Mayor Robert Smith ram-rodded the deal through as a political favor to Columbus businessman and long-time Smith ally Jabari Edwards without enough discussion or explanation.

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