Library Board selects out-of-state architect for local library @ LCC 2012-07-24

The Library Board says no local architect was as qualified as the one they picked in Tallahassee to design a new local library here. The same Lowndes County Commission that just a month ago reappointed three members of the Library Board votes tomorrow evening on this bid selection.

Brittany D. McClure wrote for the VDT today, Library board selects architects: New main branch to be located at Five Points development

Clemons Rutherford & Associates (CRA) was chosen by the library

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board as the firm that will lead the design team for the new main library branch that will be moving next to the new municipal auditorium at Five Points.

Lowndes County Commissioners will vote Tuesday on the selection.

“The selection committee felt that the firm that was selected was the most qualified for the project as well as had the lowest estimate,” said Chad McLeod, Lowndes County project manager.

Though the selection process for agencies was directed by Lowndes County, the library board had input in the selection.

“The process to build the library began nearly three years ago at the county’s urging,” said Kay Harris, Library Board chairman.

Requests For Proposals (RFP’s) were advertised for 30 days, with 35 RFP’s requested by various agencies and architectural firms. Ten completed RFP’s were submitted to the county.

And when do we the taxpayers get to see these ten completed RFPs? Not unless somebody files an open records request and somebody else makes them available: it’s the county way!

OK, so why was CRA selected?

According to Harris, CRA was selected not only for their experience but because of their presentation.

“Of the four firms that gave a final presentation, they had done the most background work and homework specifically related to the needs of Lowndes County and Valdosta and directly related to the library,” said Harris.

The library board spent many hours over several months with state library consultants to put together specifications for the new library, much of which is dictated by the state.

“CRA not only read through the entire packet of material and tailored their presentation based off the material but did homework regarding the amount of money the library actually has available for the project, which is heavily dependent on the passage of SPLOST in November,” said Harris.

First off, why did they have to dig up how much was available from SPLOST? Why didn’t the people selecting just put that as part of the RFP?

But regarding presentation, meanwhile, over at the website of Clemons, Rutherford & Associates, Inc.:

Our current website is under construction—please check back shortly.

Interesting presentation. And that’s the only presentation from CRA that we the taxpayers have gotten to see.

Another local board, back when it used to be famous for its broken website, sourced trees for its business parks from Athens, Georgia, instead of from local suppliers, with the excuse that that saved a little money. Six months later, the same Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA) announced they would pay a little more to get local grass installed by a local contractor for one of their business parks, in a deal that they are still bragging about as it gets underway, because it’s the first 100% VSEB VLCIA project, and the first 100% VSEB project anybody seems to be able to find around here. VSEB is the Valdosta Small Emerging Business program that encourages buying from local businesses.

The Library Board used the same excuse:

“CRA came in under the amount at around $16.5 million,” said Harris, “which was nearly $4 to 5 million less than the other three firms who did presentations.”

Though CRA is based out of Tallahassee, Fla., that’s no reason to think all the funds will go out of state. The company assured the library board that they will work with local firms and subcontractors. In addition to their well-researched presentation, experience and local knowledge, CRA also brings a national library consultant to the project.

I wonder if the Library Board had put in the RFP what the available SPLOST amount was whether the other bidders would have come in lower, too? What ever happened to the Chamber’s push to bring knowledge-based businesses and jobs to Valdosta and Lowndes County? How does this decision fit with that, or with VSEB?

By the way, at neither the Work Session of 25 June 2012 nor the Regular Session of 26 June 2012 where they voted did any of the Commissioners mention that Kay Harris is the Chairman of the Library Board and the Managing Editor of the Valdosta Daily Times, even though they had the other appointees stand up and recite bios. Unlike the other appointees, Harris declined to speak before being (re)appointed.

The Commission that a month ago made those appointments votes tomorrow night (5:30 PM 24 June 2012) on bids from that RFP. At the same meeting they vote on a SPLOST settlement.

5.d. Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VII Agreement & Resolution
6. Bid — Library Architect Request for Proposal

Maybe you’d like to come see what they do.