05/04/14 — Five firms vying for county contract

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Five firms vying for county contract

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 4, 2014 1:50 AM

Architectural firms vying for the contract to design Wayne County's proposed $12 million regional agricultural center will have the chance to convince the county they should get the job later this month.

The Wayne County Agriculture Advisory Committee received 12 responses to its request for qualifications for the project. Thursday afternoon that group's facilities subcommittee narrowed the list to five.

It also scheduled a meeting for May 22 to interview officials of those companies prior to preparing a recommendation for Wayne County commissioners.

The meeting, that will be open to the public, is scheduled for 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

The five companies that made the initial cut are Hobbs Architects of Pittsboro, Oakley Collier of Rocky Mount, HH Architecture of Raleigh, MHA Works of Greenville and Bowman Murray Hemingway of Wilmington.

Also responding were Clark Patterson Lee of Raleigh, Clark Nexsen of Raleigh, O'Brian/Atkins of Research Triangle Park, Dickerson Architecture of Monroe, BAM Architecture Studio of Durham, THH Architecture of Winston-Salem and JKF Architecture of Greenville.

There was little discussion during Thursday's meeting as subcommittee members simply offered up their top five choices.

"As you know, we advertised it," Interim County Manager George Wood said. "So our purpose today is try to whittle that list down. Everybody has had these. They have had the opportunity to look at them."

Kent Yelverton, director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture's Property and Construction Division, asked Wood if the May 22 interviews would be done in public.

"You can interview them individually with confidentiality (closed meeting)," Wood said. "You have to select publicly. But on the jail (project) we interviewed them publicly and that worked fine."

The county also did similar public interviews for the Steele Memorial Library project in Mount Olive, Commissioner Ray Mayo said.

"So I think we will probably do it publicly," Wood said. "It is in front of the public, but it was not a public hearing type thing where the public could ask questions or anything, but they could see."

The county hopes to build the 56,565-square-foot, two-story center at the site of the former state-owned dairy on Old Smithfield Road across from O'Berry Center.

It will 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.

The center 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.

Commissioners have asked the state to convey the property to the county -- a request supported by the county's legislative delegation.

"I just want to remind everybody that we can go up to the point of interviewing," Wood said. "We can go to the board and ask for approval and of course we can ask Kent to get approval at the state level.

"But we can't really award (the contract) until we have actually had the transfer of property or until we decide what we are going to do."

However, there is no reason to "waste time" so the committee can proceed with the interviews, he said.

Also, the county will have to negotiate fees with whichever firm is selected, he said.

"I think that when we interview the candidates we need to be prepared to give them an outline of where we are and where we are headed so they know what to expect as well," Yelverton said.

Wood agreed and said each firm would have between 20 to 30 minutes to make presentation during the interviews. Another 15 minutes would be allotted for questions by committee members, followed by 15 more minutes for members to "collect their thoughts."

"Basically at this point what we are looking for are their qualifications to do this type of project, this size project, what experience do they have with agricultural-related (projects)," Wood said. "Because what you don't want is somebody who doesn't have any familiarity with agriculture whatsoever and has to come in and learn a lot."

State law requires that the architect be hired based on qualifications and not the price, which will be negotiated, Wood said.