04/03/12 — City OKs $163,500 for planner

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City OKs $163,500 for planner

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 3, 2012 1:46 PM

Work on the city's Air Force museum master plan should begin soon after the Goldsboro City Council approved a contract with a Boston-based museum consultation group at Monday's meeting.

The council's approval entered the city into a $163,500 contract with Verner Johnson, a firm that has planned such high-profile museums as the Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas, and the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga. The cost for the consulting service will come out of the city's Occupancy Tax fund, a coffer built from taxes levied on hotel rooms within the city limits.

There was no discussion of the decision during the council's work session and the item was approved by consent during the regular meeting, but Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen spoke on the matter during his report at the end of the meeting, saying this step was important for the city to know what the Air Force museum concept could be.

"We don't know if this museum is a $3 million museum or a $10 million museum. We just don't know at this point," he said. "This is a good expenditure to see what this is going to be."

Allen also said he wanted the public to know what it was getting for its contract with Verner Johnson, highlighting the headlines of the master plan in his agenda packet.

Verner Johnson's master plan scope of service boasts a six-component approach to preparing the plan for the city.

One aspect that separated the firm from others was that its plan contains architectural planning, including site plans, exterior renderings, floor plans and capital cost estimates for constructing a museum within the former bank building. The architectural planning section of the master plan is expected to cost $50,000.

The visitor experience portion of the master plan will involve interior renderings, planning of a budget and schedule, theme and storyline creation, visualization of the visitor experience and a mission statement. That cost is listed as $45,000.

The business plan, which will be subcontracted to ConsultEcon, will contain a site and project evaluation, market review, comparisons to other aviation and military history museums, attendance potential and an overall business plan. The cost for that is to be $32,000.

Between 50 and 100 in-person interviews, three public forums, an online community survey, analysis of the data and a final report will be prepared as part of the community evaluation part of the project, which will cost $14,500.

Alexander Haas will also be subcontracted to offer fundraising counsel for the museum, which will involve assessing donor support, working with stakeholders to form a governing body for the museum, assessing needs and recommending staffing and sharing effective fundraising strategies. That item is listed to cost $5,000.

Included in the fees are stakeholder and community input sessions, during which there will be 25 meetings with stakeholders identified by the Air Force Museum Citizen Committee and two community presentations.

There is also a not-to-exceed stipend for $17,000 to cover travel for the members of the team to Goldsboro.

Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan was quick to point out, however, that even local firms would have required large travel stipends since the subcontractors were from across the country.

Ms. Logan also touched on the city's other big-ticket project during the council's work session as she shared with council options to improve the aesthetics of Center Street as the time draws near for construction to begin on the Center Street Streetscape Project.

Staff decided to leave the holly trees not tapped for removal as part of the renovations to the 200 north block of Center Street, but sought other ways to create an aura of connectivity between the blocks, asking for new trash receptacles, hanging baskets and planters for the sidewalks and intersections along Center Street.

The current amenities would be moved elsewhere downtown to make room for their newer replacements.

The 18 trash receptacles are to cost $16,056 while hanging baskets at two more intersections on Center Street will run about $5,500. Installation of new planters downtown would cost $9,540.

Ms. Logan and staff proposed that the $31,146 total come from the municipal service district fund, which is grown from special taxes on properties downtown, but Allen asked that money be reappropriated from the funds used for the Streetscape payments instead to protect the MSD fund from being depleted. The balance in the MSD fund is $83,367.

Contingency funds would replace the money taken from the Streetscape cost and put toward the project instead.

Council approved that motion and heard more about the costs for replacing Christmas decorations downtown, especially since Progress Energy may not allow the city to hang garland from its utility poles in the future.

Progress Energy also voiced concerns about lighting hazards on the south end of Center Street last year. Ms. Logan explained that initial costs for replacing the city's Christmas decorations would run about $38,000 with $8,000 going toward the renovated block of Center Street and the rest going toward the replacement of garland throughout downtown.