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Four firms in running to design facilities

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County has narrowed the field to four in its search for a firm to plan the details of new recreation facilities throughout the county.

SGA Architecture of Pawleys Island, Wood + Partners of Hilton Head, DDC Engineers of Myrtle Beach and Woolpert of Charleston received notification last week of their selection as finalists, said Beth Goodale, the county’s director of recreation.

Requests for proposals are to go out by the end of this week and the firms will then have about two weeks to prepare their pitches.

Once a firm is hired, the county will be able to move forward with plans to build new recreation facilities called for in its capital improvement plan.

A master plan for the facilities was adopted last year and property has been purchased to house the facilities, including 80 acres in Litchfield, located between the dirt portions of Petigru Drive and Parkersville Road. The county paid $8.7 million for the land on Waccamaw Neck earlier this year and plans are to use it for tennis complexes, ball fields and walking trails, among other things.

But before the county begins any work on that property or any other set aside for recreation, it wants all the details ironed out, including a layout of where facilities and parking will go, as well as drainage, stormwater planning and all other related aspects.

That’s what the chosen firm will be tasked with and hopefully planning out all the details up front will prevent the county from having to “undo or redo” anything later, Goodale said.

“In the long run, it will make things work better and we’ll have more of a seamless design,” she explained.

The four finalists were selected from a pool of 26 firms. The county short listed 11 for interviews.

Goodale said she was very pleased with the number and quality of firms that submitted bids.

“It would have been great if we could have narrowed it down to one. There were some wonderful presentations, but it was very difficult to get to this point,” she said. “There were some top quality firms in the mix.”

Once the county selects a firm to recommend to County Council, things should start moving along at a quick pace.

“Shortly after we get council approval, we can jump right in and be ready to start,” Goodale said.

“That was a big part of the interview process. We asked them if they would be ready to start right away and all the firms indicated they would.”

The first task of the selected firm will be assessment of all the county’s property.

The finalists have already reviewed the county’s master plan for recreation.

“They know the components and where all the property is,” Goodale said, “so this would be something we can very quickly get on the ground.”

The firm will be working on sites throughout the county simultaneously. That was something else the county was careful to clarify in its interviews.

“We want to be planning for all regions of the county,” Goodale said. “One of the important parts of getting this done is to have it done on the front end for all sites, so we’ll be able to get started on projects and get them done more quickly.”

Among the first projects the county hopes to complete is construction of tennis courts on the property in Litchfield. The courts are expected to open next summer.

The master plan for recreation calls for the spending of $84 million between now and 2017. It earmarks $23.8 million for Waccamaw Neck.

Over the full course of the plan, which runs through 2025, Waccamaw Neck is expected to get $32.6 million for recreation facilities and improvements.

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