County approves $1.59M bid for DSS construction

Published 12:49 pm Friday, October 22, 2010

The final major decision on Polk Countys controversial proposed department of social services (DSS) building has been made.

Commissioners on Monday awarded the construction contract to the low bidder, Able Constructors of Greenville, S.C. The bid amount was $1,590,755.

Commissioners also approved Monday a resolution to file an application to the N.C. Local Government Commission (LGC) to finance $1.85 million of the project.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1,914,052 once expected reimbursements from federal and state governments are factored in. Some reimbursements will be spread out over the next 45 years (the projected life of the building), while $95,498 is estimated to be reimbursed this fiscal year. (See the article on page 10 for more details.)

The bid was approved after the county found out last week that a pump was not needed at the proposed building because the water pressure from the well was found to be sufficient.

Because the two lowest bids were very close, the results of the pressure test were needed to determine the lowest bidder. If a pump had been needed, MV Momentum Construction, LLC of Charlotte would have been the low bidder.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson says the water pressure test revealed that the well produces 1,250 gallons per minute. The well needed to produce a minimum of 1,000 gallons per minute in order to provide sufficient water without a pump and generator.

Commissioner Tommy Melton was the sole vote against both decisions this week.

Several months ago I wanted to keep the building at 10,000 square feet or less and wanted the budget to be $1.5 million, said Melton. So, for that I will not be able to vote in favor.

Commissioner Renee McDermott said she disagrees with Melton, saying that the Womack building was not large enough for county services by the time construction was complete. The county had to purchase three additional buildings because the building had not been constructed to meet future needs, she said.

Its so much better to plan ahead than to look back and see that you made a huge mistake, McDermott said.

The size of the building has been a topic of controversy recently. Commissioners Walker and Gasperson have joined McDermott, saying they want to plan for the future. They have made projections of the future growth of DSS and say they want the building to last 45 years.

But commissioners Melton and Warren Watson have said the building is about 1,000 square feet too large. According to estimates, the building will have between seven and nine more offices than the current DSS utilizes.

They have said that DSS should not be a facility the county encourages to grow; instead, they say, the county should be working to reduce the number of residents who utilize the service.

Walker, Gasperson and McDermott have said that DSS helps not only Medicaid recipients but also many more residents such as the elderly and children. They say those and other needs will continue to grow in the county.

The building will be constructed at 11,900 square feet and will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which is expected to save only utility costs over the lifetime of the building.

The county also agreed on Monday to seek financing for the building. The LGC will first have to approve the county borrowing money for the project, which Whitson said wont be an issue because of the countys low debt and history of paying off debts.

Whitson estimates that the county should be able to obtain a 4.10 percent loan with debt service beginning in December, 2011. The county anticipates taking out a 15-year loan on the project, with the first year’s payment being $161,258, which includes $37,925 in interest and an annual $123,333 principal. Polk will also be reimbursed for the interest portion of the loan through state and federal reimbursements at a rate of 61 percent or an approximately $185,074 reimbursement over the life of the loan.

Ernie Smith expressed concern that the county did not choose a local contractor. Commissioner Cindy Walker commented that local sub-contractors are being used for the grading portion of the project and Ray Gasperson said by law the county is required to select the lowest bidder because it is being funded with taxpayer money.

Grading for the project has begun on county recreation complex property off Wolverine Trail in Mill Spring. No estimates of when construction of the actual building will begin have been given, but officials have said in the past they anticipate construction to begin by the end of the year.