Library construction contract awarded

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GATESVILLE – Nearly two full years after initially discussing plans to build a new public library, Gates County officials awarded the construction contract for the often debated facility last week.

Despite the passage of nearly 24 months of debate over the investment of $1.5 million in taxpayer money to build the facility, the decision to proceed with construction was not supported by all members of the Gates County Board of Commissioners.

In a 4-1 vote, the construction contract was awarded to A.R. Chesson Construction Company of Elizabeth City. Their base bid was $1,146,859. Commissioner John Hora, who has often questioned the new project since joining the board in 2010, cast the lone “no” vote.

Katherine Peele of LS3P Architects, the firm hired by the board to perform design work on the library, said bids were received from 12 construction firms. She noted that Chesson’s bid was well under the $1.5 million cap the commissioners placed on the project last year.

However, the base bid only covers actual construction. There were other items for the commissioners to consider.

Peele said there were four bid alternates that were priced to possibly add to the project, to include:

Nana Wall System ($28,688) which is a folding wall that can divide a larger room into two smaller spaces;

Standing seam metal roof ($20,290); the base bid price included a shingle roof;

Additional asphalt paving in the parking lot to create a loop ($15,100); and

To allow the IT system to be part of the general contract ($17,050).

Other costs to incur were $8,000 for testing the asphalt and concrete at the site, $91,000 for furniture, $51,000 in contingency funds, $9,700 in legal fees and a $4,950 financing fee from BB&T Bank, who loaned the county $1.5 million for the project.

Peele said with all the additions to the base bid, the grand total for the project comes to $1,482,259. That figure included the architectural and design fees.

Upon discussing the four bid alternates, Commissioner Jack Owens asked about the life expectancy of the metal roof compared to a shingle roof. Peele said the metal roof could last up to 20 years longer. It was noted that a shingle roof’s life is normally in the 15-to-20 year range.

Peele noted there has been some earlier discussion about fundraisers to possibly cover the cost of the library’s new furniture.

“You’ve got some time on the furniture; we haven’t shopped for any at this point, right now it’s just a line item in the overall budget,” Peele said.

Owens said the fundraising idea was something he has already discussed privately with his fellow commissioners as well as with County Manager Toby Chappell.

“From what I’m looking at we’ve backed down to 7,410 square feet for the library,” noted Hora. “Looking at just the base bid price, that’s $153 to $155 per square foot. Just recently there was a commercial style building built about two miles from here for around $93 to $95 per square foot. I question the numbers I see (on the library project).”

“I’ve been in the building trade for a long time, there is a big difference when you’re building a library….most buildings built here in the county don’t have a parking lot to hold 30-to-40 vehicles and a wrap-around driveway,” Commission Chairman Graham Twine noted.

Hora again brought up the fact that the county citizens were not allowed to bear much weight in helping to decide whether or not to invest their taxpayer dollars to build a new library. Hora further stated that during the meeting he attended, with other commissioners, in Raleigh with the Local Government Commission (one where the LGC approved the county’s request to absorb the new debt), the state officials cited the need for community support for non-voted debt.

“Obviously I was disappointed that the LGC took the vote of the commissioners (as the source of library approval),” Hora said. “There’s no need to be angry with them because they acted within the scope of their authority. However, the people to be concerned about are sitting on the other side of this table. The power to do this (library) resides solely with the commissioners. I have no problem with the library, but it was something that needed to be voted on by the taxpayers. Allowing the people to vote is a win-win.”

Hora continued by saying that the Gates County Board of Education, in a recent meeting with the commissioners, had asked for an additional quarter-million dollars to address a state shortfall.

“What do you think we need to invest in, our students or a shiny new library,” he asked.

Owens made the motion to accept the base bid construction contract as presented. Commissioner Kenneth Jernigan offered a second and the motion was approved by a 4-1 vote with Hora in opposition.

As far as the alternate bids, Jernigan motioned for the IT system to be added to the base bid contract. Owens offered a second and that motion was approved by a 4-0 vote with Hora abstaining.

Owens motioned, with a second from Jernigan, to add the metal roof to the contract. That motion was approved by a 3-1 vote with Commission Vice Chairman Henry Jordan voting no and Hora abstaining.

The commissioners opted not to add the Nana wall or the driveway loop to the project.

Additionally the board approved, by a 4-1 vote with Hora in opposition, a capital project ordinance to construct the library. They also received information concerning the hiring of a geo technical firm to perform testing on the concrete and asphalt at the construction site. On a 4-1 vote (with Hora in opposition), GET Solutions of Elizabeth City was awarded the contract to perform that task.

There was no timetable as far as when construction will begin.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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