03/17/14 — County seeks qualifications

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County seeks qualifications

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 17, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County is sending out a request for qualifications for architects interested in designing its proposed $12 million regional agriculture center.

Commissioners approved the process last week after Interim County Manager George Wood told them the design is needed if they intend to seek grant funding.

Wood said he understood that Commissioners Bill Pate and Steve Keen had spoken to officials on the congressional level -- something that also is needed if the county plans to go after money on that level.

As planned, the 56,565-square-foot, two-story center would house the Cooperative Extension Service, Cherry Farm administration, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Farm Service, Natural Resources Conservation Services and Wayne County Soil and Water.

It also would include classrooms and an auditorium that could accommodate up to 378 people in banquet-style seating or 528 people in auditorium-style seating.

The county has asked the state to convey the old state-owned dairy property at Cherry Hospital for the center site. It has not yet been determined whether the state will convey the land at no cost, lease or sell the property to the county.

The project has been endorsed by state Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

No timetable has been announced for the project.

The county has about $176,000 remaining from a state appropriation from several years ago for a project study along with $2 million appropriated by commissioners earlier this year.

"We do have money in place, but in order to go after serious federal or state money we reach a point where they want some at least schematic drawings," Wood said. "I refer to that as a phase one type drawing. What I am proposing to do is that you authorize us to prepare a RFQ, a request for qualifications, for architects.

"But what we would do, it would have two phases to it. The first phase would be to do preliminary design, which is really your core plan, and the site work. In other words, where would it sit on the location? What the elevations would look like and what the interior layout of it would be. You are going to need that before you go after these kinds of grant funds, legislative appropriations and that sort of thing."

The second phase would proceed purely at the board's discretion, he said.

That phase would be full design, plans and specifications if the county planned to use the tradition design, bid, build, he said.

Or commissioners could "lop it off" at phase one and use design/build, he said. In that case, the county would make it clear that it owned the plans that were done, Wood said.

"That sets the stage where you can say you are not going further with the second step and that you then want to look at a design/build," he said. "But you are going to have to do this preliminary amount to qualify to go after the big money.

"That is the minimum that you are going to have to do, and you are going to have to do it at some point anyway."

That approach would enable the county to negotiate a fee for both phases on the "front end," Wood said.

"Because you don't want to get locked into doing phase one and then negotiating the back part, the bigger contract , on the back end," he said. "You should be negotiating both, but it is totally your discretion if you want to proceed with that.

"So you are not locking yourself into phase two. You can back out either for money, say the money isn't forthcoming, or if you did like the way he (architect) did the first phase, or just at your choice."

Wood said he had already spoken with county purchasing director Noelle Woods about the process, but had wanted to talk to commissioners to see if they were comfortable with proceeding that way.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery sought assurance that the county would not be locked into a design.

That is correct, Wood said. But at the same time, since the county is paying for it, the paperwork needs to include that the board would have a review process and the architect could make adjustments.

That way the county is not locked into the firm or the plan, he said.

However, if the county has received a grant, and changes are made then the funding agency might want to see what the county is doing, he said.

"Ideally what you come out of it (phase one) with is how the building is going to look, the layout and that sort of thing," Wood said.

Wood said he was trying to do the minimum that the county needed to do to apply for grants, but at the same time preserve the board's options.

Keen said Steve Allen of Solutions for Local Governments had updated a plan prepared in 2006 for an agriculture center.

The study has all of the requirements of the building size, the square footage, what department is where, he said.

Keen said he had spoken with state Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive and his idea was for a plat, have it surveyed and then get a floor plan, elevations as the request goes through the General Assembly.

That is what schematic does, Wood said.

Bill Pate made the motion to proceed with phase one. Wood said the RFQ would include both phases, but that the county would not be locked into doing phase two.