05/02/13 — County to donors: Pay for design/build

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County to donors: Pay for design/build

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 2, 2013 1:46 PM

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From left, Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown, Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. and Jimmy Williams, representing the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee, compare notes following Wednesday's meeting of the Wayne County Facilities Committee.

A Mount Olive grassroots organization that already has paid nearly $231,000 raised by the community for the design of a new town library could be asked to pay another $35,000 so that the county can terminate its contract with the architectural firm that designed the structure.

Wayne County Facilities Committee members said Wednesday that ditching the current architect in favor of using a design/build plan could save the county a half million dollars or more in the long run.

That was the case for the new Senior Center, they said. In design/build, an architect/engineer teams with a contractor to design and to build a project. The project owner, in this case the county, has a more active role in the process.

Mount Olive officials voiced their support of the approach, but also counseled caution.

"I think I speak for (library supporters) when I say we totally support what you are doing here today and endorse it (design/build) and think it is a good way to go," said Jimmy Williams, who has been working with the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee. "The biggest concern that anybody has is that we do begin with the library. The only thing we would say is that we are all for saving money.

"I worked with public funds enough in my experience to know that anything you can save, do. The only thing we would say of course is that we would not want to save money that would compromise the integrity of the library so that it could not fulfill the mission that you are putting it there to do. We sit here and we keep talking about this dollar and that dollar, and no one knows anything about any dollar."

None of the figures mentioned during the meeting "mean a thing" because no one knows what they have "until somebody tells you," he said.

"So all these numbers that we are batting about savings per square foot are really irrelevant to the whole discussion," Williams said. "The whole discussion is getting the project moving and getting a figure that is real, and when you get a figure that is real then we can all work, can't we?"

The Steele Memorial Library project was the only topic discussed during the Wednesday meeting, which was called for "discussion of county owned facilities."

Williams, Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. and Town Manager Charles Brown were notified of the meeting by committee members and attended the nearly hour-long session.

The Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee met Wednesday afternoon to talk about the latest development. Williams was the only member of the Steering Committee invited to the meeting. Committee chairman Lynn Williams, who was instrumental in the first fundraising effort, was not notified of the meeting.

"Our goal is to get a library in Mount Olive," Mrs. Williams said. "We are willing to work with them in whatever way is practical and reasonable to move forward."

Mrs. Williams agreed that design/build would offer some "good opportunities."

Before taking a vote, the Facilities Committee members asked for direction from County Manager Lee Smith only to reject his recommendation that the county pay the $35,000.

Commissioner Steve Keen made the motion that Friends of Steele Memorial Library pay the $35,000 for the county to terminate its contract with RATIO Architects.

Keen's motion included the county use design/build and the county's target construction cost of $120 per square feet. The most recent cost analysis puts that cost at $140 per square foot.

Keen and Commissioners Ray Mayo and Wayne Aycock voted for the motion.

Final approval rests with the full board of commissioners that will meet Tuesday at 3 p.m. Mayo said library supporters would be notified and asked to attend.

A new design would not be required if the contract is terminated -- the winning design/build team would still be able to use the RATIO plans.

McDonald said he had spoken to several contractors who said between $120 to $140 per square foot was a "good range depending on what you are going to do."

"Are you going to build a Taj Mahal or are you going to build a library?" McDonald said. "You build a Taj Mahal then you are going to have a $140 per square foot. For a library, you can probably get it for $120. All that we want is a library. We want it to be functional, and we want it to be something that we are all proud of."