02/17/04 — Construction stalled

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Construction stalled

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 17, 2004 2:01 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Construction delays have finally ended for Duplin Commons, with the commissioners awarding contracts worth $11 million.

The Duplin County commissioners voted Monday to award the contracts to start building the agricultural office building and the multipurpose arena at Duplin Commons.

Dixie General Contractors of Wallace will be the contractor for the agricultural building for $7.6 million, and Group III of Kinston will be the contractor for the multi-purpose arena for $3.3 million.

The vote Monday was split 4-1, because Commissioner Arliss Albertson opposed building the multi-purpose arena.

He said other arenas aren't paying their way. He also cited a poor economy and the need for more schools. The county's first obligation is to the children, he said.

He supported the agricultural office building, which will house the Cooperative Extension Service, the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and a Rural Development office.

The original deadline for awarding the contracts had been June 29, but a complaint from one of the bidders stalled the project until the General Assembly passed a local bill. The bill the county requested exempted Duplin from having to observe a state law requiring general contractors to name their subcontractors in their bid proposals.

The contractors had used a form provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is offering an $11 million loan for the project. That form did not require a list of the subcontractors.

After the bill passed, the commissioners decided in July to forge ahead with the project.

Then, the county looked around for other funding. That was expected to take six weeks.

Three months later, in November, Wachovia Bank agreed to lend the $11 million up front to start the construction project, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held. That loan will be paid off with the USDA loan. This arrangement allowed the county to get started sooner on the project.

On Monday morning, Commissioner Reginald Wells asked why the project had been delayed so long.

"My concern is we don't need delays on that contract," he said.

John Murray of BMS Architects said the last delay occurred, because the minority business documents had been missing from the contracts. But they were ready now.