06/22/14 — Architect chosen for new ag center

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Architect chosen for new ag center

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 22, 2014 1:50 AM

HH Architecture of Raleigh will design the county's proposed $12 million regional agriculture center, the Wayne County commissioners have decided.

Now it will be up to County Manager George Wood and Commissioner Bill Pate, the chairman of the board's Agriculture Advisory Committee, to negotiate the contract for the work.

Commissioners didn't indicate how long that is expected to take, but the county needs the designs, schematic drawings and plans before it can seek out federal financial assistance.

It is important to have the plans in hand before asking for private donations as well.

HH Architecture was one 12 firms that responded to the county's request for qualifications from companies interested in the project.

The Agriculture Advisory Committee's facilities subcommittee narrowed the list to five -- HH Architecture, Hobbs Architects of Pittsboro, Oakley Collier of Rocky Mount, MHA Works of Greenville and Bowman Murray Hemingway of Wilmington.

The five firms made presentations before the subcommittee earlier this month.

"The presentations by the architectural groups were just fantastic," Pate said. "Each and every one gave a great presentation. It was a very difficult decision."

The scores were tallied by Noelle Woods, county purchasing director.

Commissioner Ray Mayo said that while he is not on the Agriculture Advisory Committee, he did sit in on the presentations. Any of the five could have done a good job, he said.

"The one that was picked, I believe is the right one for this project," he said. "This looks like a reality a lot more than it did three, four or five years ago."

Pate noted that according to new data, agriculture's impact on Wayne County continues to grow.

"The last time we had an update from Dr. (Michael) Walden from N.C. State it was a $763 million economic impact," he said. "That now has moved to a $949 million economic impact yearly in Wayne County. That is huge. It goes to show the growth and importance of agriculture and agribusiness to Wayne County and its sister counties in this region.

"We have to recognize that and move forward and continue to educate not only our children about agribusiness, but our farmers."

The county has set aside $2 million for the 56,565-square-foot, two-story center and 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 has asked the state donate the former state-owned dairy farm property on the Old Smithfield Highway to the county to use as the site for the center.

The property is located across the road from O'Berry Center.

As planned, the 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.