The $20 million Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center remains on schedule to open March 1, 2018.
The public can view the progress on the center by going to Wayne County website, waynegov.com, and clicking on the link for the "Live View-Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center." The view is provided by a time-lapse camera installed by T.A. Loving Co., construction manager at risk for the project.
Groundbreaking for the center, located on North Wayne Memorial Drive adjacent to Wayne Community College, was held last July.
And while construction continues, the county is working to hire a center director by mid April.
"They are moving along," County Manager George Wood said. "What I like is they tell us what they have done over the past month, and then they kind of give us a look ahead for the next one.
"They have completed all of the footings now. They are continuing to do the brickwork, the concrete blocks on the assembly hall, which is the main building. They are going to start the walls on the south section. Now they are doing erection of steel on the east side. They call it the east building, and that is the agricultural offices."
Trees and bushes were planted in the buffer zone over the last 30 days, he said.
"Now what they are doing, they are setting the structural steel, the bar joists, and decking on the agricultural offices," Wood said. "They have started setting steel on the north side. In next 30 days they should complete all of the concrete brickwork on the assembly hall. Then you will see them start laying concrete blocks on the south end."
Next up will be interior wall framing, fascia, parapet and overhead rough-ins on the agricultural office building, he said.
"What they want to do there within 30 days is basically have it roofed-in so if they have bad weather, they can work on the interior of that building," Wood said.
Duke Energy will install the primary conduit for the parking lot lighting.
"We did not buy the street lights, the parking lot lights," Wood said. "We are leasing those from Duke. So that is a turnkey job for them, but obviously they have got to coordinate with the contractor to get the conduit in for all of the electrical cabling on that."
That will be followed by the installation of irrigation piping, Wood said.
"We are actually on schedule, but they think that in the next 30 days they will actually be able to get a little ahead of schedule," Wood said. "They were ahead of schedule for a while then we had that little event called Hurricane Matthew. It threw every schedule off. But despite the hurricane, they are back on schedule. So we are still looking at March 1 of '18 so we are down to only 12 months.
"Things are going well. We are very pleased with the job that T.A. Loving is doing."
A meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23, with project architect HH Architecture of Raleigh to look at "soft costs" -- fixtures, furniture and equipment designs.
"So we are going to try to nail all of this stuff down," Wood said.
Wood said he is currently reviewing applications for the center director and expects to set interviews shortly.
The county received 15 to 20 applications, he said.
Wood said he hopes to hire a director sometime between mid March and early April.
Wayne County commissioners have voiced concerns that the county is behind the curve in hiring a director who would be responsible for bookings at the center.
Those bookings need to made as much as two years in advance, commissioners have said.
Complementing that is a need for policies governing rentals and other issues, Wood said.
"We have got to get all of the policies in place," he said. "Some of the policies of course are what are we going to charge for each room. They vary in size. Before we could take any bookings we would need to know what we are going to charge for every sort of service that we do -- starting with if you lease the big assembly hall. If you cut it in half. If you cut it in thirds. Then we have four breakout rooms for smaller conferences. We have about seven or eight different configurations that we can lease out.
"Then of course you've got catering services. We need to get those lined up and what we charge there. What do we charge the rental for the tables and the chairs and that sort of thing. So there is just a lot of things like that that we have got to get in place.
The director will be responsible for crafting the policies, Wood said.
Further long, closer to opening, the county plans to hire an operations manager to manage the day-to-day operation of the facility.
The county is patterning the process on the New Bern convention center.
County officials visited that center to see how it is budgeted and operated, Wood said.
The centers are similar, he said. The New Bern center assembly hall is 12,000 square feet compared to Wayne County's approximately 14,000 square foot assembly hall.
The center will be home to the Cooperative Extension Service, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wayne County Soil and Water and have classrooms and a large lobby.
The center will be 1.5 acres under roof, and its assembly hall will seat 800 in a banquet setting and more than 1,500 when set up for a speaker.
It will hold 70 booths for a trade show or similar event.