Firms make pitches for center contract
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 9, 2014 1:46 PM
Eddie Pitzer, left, and Kent Yelverton, members of the Wayne County Agriculture Advisory Committee, listen to presentations last Thursday.
Architectural firms interested in designing Wayne County's proposed $12 million regional agricultural center took turns detailing their experiences and explaining why they are the firm best suited to do the job during a commissioners' committee meeting last week.
No action was taken by the Facilities Subcommittee of the county's Agriculture Advisory Committee following the presentations.
Wayne County Commissioner Bill Pate, who chairs the committee, told the companies that subcommittee members would rank them.
The rankings will be compiled and a recommendation made at the June 17 commissioners' meeting, Pate said.
The committee received 12 responses to its request for qualifications for companies interested in the project. The facilities subcommittee narrowed the list to five.
The five companies making presentation Thursday were Hobbs Architects of Pittsboro, Oakley Collier of Rocky Mount, HH Architecture of Raleigh, MHA Works of Greenville and Bowman Murray Hemingway of Wilmington.
"I think they were all excellent," Pate said after the meeting. "Without swaying anyone, I had a couple that came out on top in my mind that are neck and neck, and I could be happy either way.
"I told the guys, 'You just need to rank them and send them on in. I think the cream will rise to the top.' We have a rating thing, and we are going to rate them one through five."
It is similar to how the subcommittee narrowed the original 12 down to five, he said.
Pate said he didn't think there would be another subcommittee meeting prior to the commissioners' session.
"If we end up with two of them tied, we are going to have to come back and talk about," he said. "But my hope is that there will be a clear-cut winner, and I will be able to take it right directly on the 17th and make a recommendation to commissioners.
"I had hoped we were going to make the decision today, but I don't think that is possible. It goes to show that there are a lot of people interested in this project."
Pate asked representatives of the companies if they would provide promotional materials to help the county promote the project to potential investors. They said they could.
"That is an important part obviously because we don't have all of the funding," he said. "I think this group is leaning towards, obviously not raising taxes, and we are not even sure that we want to borrow any money."
Pate said he has yet to hear from the office of state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler on the county's request that the old state dairy near Cherry Hospital be given to the county for the project.
"The fact that we have Kent (Yelverton) sitting up there shows they are behind us in this project," Pate said. "Otherwise he (Troxler) wouldn't have Kent as his liaison. They wouldn't let him spend as much time here, but I can't speak for Commissioner Troxler either."
Yelverton, who lives near Fremont, is director of property construction for the state Agriculture Department.
Earlier this year, Troxler wrote in a letter to Pate that he supports the project and that he was impressed by the county appropriating $2 million for it.
Recently, state Sens. Louis Pate of Mount Olive and Don Davis of Snow Hill filed a bill seeking a $3 million state appropriation for the project.
The county would use the $ 3 million to help pay for the design, to develop schematic drawings and plans and for construction.
The plans are needed before the county can appeal to the federal government for financial help.
The 56,565-square-foot, two-story center would house the Cooperative Extension Service, Cherry Farm administration, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wayne County Soil and Water.
It would include classrooms and an auditorium that could accommodate up to 378 people in banquet-style seating or 528 in auditorium-style seating.