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Recreation plan: Signed contract means work can finally begin

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

After two months of negotiations, Georgetown County has closed a deal that will have four design firms work cooperatively to plan new recreation facilities throughout the county.

A contract was signed Wednesday afternoon, said County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

The contract is between the county and one firm, SGA Architecture of Pawleys Island, but that was just to “simplify things” and make administration easier, said Steve Goggans, principal of SGA.

“We needed an overarching, coordinating entity that could coordinate all the data, surveys and evaluations, and set up the charette,” he explained.

The other firms — Woolpert of Charleston, Wood + Partners of Hilton Head and DDC Engineers of Myrtle Beach — will subcontract through SGA. But they’ll “be in every way equal,” Goggans said.

With negotiations out of the way, Goggans said plans are to get started on the first stages of the work immediately. He estimates the firms are six to eight weeks away from being able to begin the charette, which is the actual design of the projects.

“We understand the county wants things done fast,” he said. “One of the first things we want to do is construct an overall schedule.”

The first few weeks will be given to data collection, including boundary and wetlands surveys, soil studies and environmental audits, he said.

All the consultants will then visit the sites and meet with county staff to confirm the design program and reaffirm County Council’s goals and priorities for recreation projects to be completed under the county’s capital improvement plan.

Hemingway estimates the total cost of designing recreation facilities will be about $388,000, including surveying and other components of the work that will be done by subcontractors.

The four design firms are to be paid $140,000 to be split between them, and SGA will receive an additional management fee for overseeing the work, subcontractors and billing.

Hemingway said he’s pleased with the arrangement the county and the firms arrived at, and he’s “looking forward to this moving ahead, so we can ultimately start construction on some of these projects.”

The county had hoped to have the first of the projects, tennis courts in Litchfield, finished this summer. But delays in hiring a design firm pushed back the start date.

The county was scheduled to have a firm hired by the end of 2009.

Having four firms partner for the project is unconventional, but the firms and county officials said they believe it will be in everyone’s best interest.

“It’s a good deal,” said County Council Member Jerry Oakley. “It allows you to draw on the resources of all four firms rather than one.”

By working together, Goggans said, the firms might be able to complete the work more quickly than they would individually.

After the design plan is created, each firm will be assigned one of the county’s four geographical regions to focus on as projects move forward. As a result, the firms “will be competing pretty hard to outdo each other” in the quality of work and price, said Mike Wooten, president of DDC. That will also be a benefit to the county, he said.

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