An architectural firm has been selected for the multi-million dollar construction of a new Sampson County Emergency Management Services facility, however the price tag of that endeavor, while believed to have ballooned from preliminary estimates, is yet to be determined.
County officials cited some changes and additions to the project expected to take the price tag to upwards of $10 million, from a previous $7 million estimate received in early 2019. Even then, engineers and local leaders said the estimate was rough.
On Monday, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners moved the effort toward a new Emergency Management facility forward another step, unanimously selecting ADW Architects out of Charlotte for the project. The board authorized staff to negotiate and execute the contract for services, with that contract not to exceed $10.5 million.
The contract will be reviewed by the county attorney before it receives any signatures, County manager Ed Causey stated.
“When we developed the RFP (request for proposals), the question that people are going to ask is you appear to be doing something that is a little bit different than what you started out with,” said Causey, calling it a “further enhancement.”
Board chairman Clark Wooten said members of the public were already inquiring as to the reason for increased costs, requesting staff provide some bullet points that could answer those queries.
During the meeting, Causey cited additional needs, especially for the proposed 911 portion of the building which will include concrete walls and a roof, as well as raised flooring that allow for the bevy of wiring that needs to be fed around the building.
The county sent specific requests to 28 architectural firms, as well as published ads, ultimately receiving 11 proposals back. The 11 submissions were reviewed last month and subsequently whittled down by the county’s EMS Facilities Development Team to four firms, who were interviewed Thursday and Friday of last week.
Causey recommended ADW, saying it was a staff consensus, but noted he would be comfortable with any of the final four. He said he was impressed by the other firms that were considered.
“We’ve tried to be very methodical and very thorough in the process,” the county manager remarked. “Our recommendation is a little unusual. What we are trying to do is get an architect on board so we can reprogram and revise our cost estimate. We need to get that number so we can begin to finalize (requests for funding).”
“I’m confident the project cost will increase somewhat from the $7 million we projected,” said Causey, noting that a preliminary cost estimate from the Wooten Company back in early 2019 was a year-old, very rough, and the Emergency Management project has since also taken on changes.
“I don’t want to unnecessarily influence the value that finally comes back when we do the program,” said Causey.
A timeline for the EMS project was recently floated by county staff, including several dates that culminate with project construction being bid out in the fall of 2020, with work set to begin in October.
Leading up to that point, a Feb. 1, 2020 deadline has been set for an upgraded cost estimate and programming. That information is needed to apply for NC911 PSAP (public safety answering points) grants and other funding sources. The architect will also need three months for plan development, along with IT consultation.
A target construction start has been slated for October and is likely to take 15-18 months.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Emergency Management director Ronald Bass, noting he felt the county had selected the right firm for the job.
The county received $3.5 million in North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (NCOSBM) funding earlier this year by Sampson County will be expended first, according to the timeline. Those millions in state grant funds were formally accepted in November to build the revamped emergency headquarters in the county.
The proposed facility would be situated in the bend on Commerce Street off of U.S. 701 Business in Clinton, between Sampson-Bladen Oil Company and the Sampson County Law Enforcement Center. The county owns 22 acres on both sides of Commerce Street that has not yet been developed.
The new building would replace the aging and outgrown facility on Underwood Street, which is roughly half the size. The current building was constructed in 1956 and served as a North Carolina National Guard Armory until it was released to the county in 1995.
While the idea for a new facility has been tossed around for years, emergency officials said the building has become too small and is susceptible to flooding during even moderate rains. There is a general lack of space for staff, equipment and storage, as well as ventilation issues. Bass has noted the old armory building is “in dire need” of replacement.
Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.