The Wilkes County commissioners have opted to go with a familiar contractor as they move ahead with steps for constructing an emergency services center and new Wilkes County Office Building, plus renovating the current county office building for housing the Wilkes Health Department.

All five commissioners scored Jefferson-based Vannoy Construction the highest on May 12 when representatives of five companies made cases for being named design-build contractor for one of Wilkes County government’s largest construction undertakings ever.

A design-builder is responsible for all of a project’s design and construction. Proponents say this is more efficient than hiring an architect to design a facility, putting the project out for construction bids and approving the lowest responsible bid.

Each commissioner scored each company in five categories involving qualifications, experience, performance, understanding goals of the projects and plans for involving minority and women-owned subcontractors. The most possible points in each category ranged from five to 25.

Vannoy officials referenced the many county government and other projects the company has completed in Wilkes. Although not all mentioned in the meeting, these include the Wilkes County Courthouse, Wilkes County Jail, converting former Northwestern Bank buildings into the Wilkes Agricultural Center and facilities for the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office and numerous Wilkes Community College and Wilkes County Airport projects.

Mark Vannoy, co-owner of Vannoy Construction, mentioned the large number of Wilkes residents the company employs. He said he 15 when he first worked on a construction site in Wilkes.

Others appearing on behalf of Vannoy were Mike Kesterson, director of pre-construction services; and Kris Little, project manager. With them was Maggie Carnevale, principal and vice president at Asheville-based Padgett & Freeman Architects PA.

The other companies that made presentations included Greensboro-based Samet Corp., Winston-Salem-based Frank L. Blum Construction. and Charlotte-based Batson-Cook Construction. Statesville-based G.L. Wilson Building Co., the fifth company, promotes itself as a design-build firm.

Yates said the next step is for county officials to negotiate design and construction costs and a construction schedule with Vannoy to develop a proposed contract with a price, followed by commissioners deciding whether to approve the contract. This will include discussion of facility needs and specific plans to address them.

When Vannoy representatives appeared before the commissioners, there was brief discussion about potential advantages of undertaking multiple projects simultaneously.

However, discussion among county officials has indicated the work would likely be done in phases. It would likely start with constructing an emergency services building on county-owned land along Call Street in Wilkesboro and near where Call Street intersects with Oakwoods Road.

The emergency services building would primarily be the Wilkes Emergency Medical Services main base, now in a building near Wilkes Medical Center leased by the county. Commissioners have indicated uncertainty about how much longer this building may be available.

The new county office building apparently would be constructed on three acres at the intersection of Courthouse Drive Extension and Executive Drive in Wilkesboro, which the commissioners approved buying in late April. It adjoins the Wilkes Agricultural Center property.

Since then, county officials have briefly mentioned the possibility of Wilkes Community College donating land nearby along Executive Drive and behind Herring Hall to county government.

In their March 16 meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that outlined undertaking the three projects in phases with the design-build construction method. They also approved a reimbursement resolution saying the county will spend a maximum of $30 million on the three projects.

Yates said county officials plan to cover part of the cost with a loan. Actual size and design of the emergency services and county office buildings are yet to be determined, but these plans must be presented when N.C. Local Government Commission approval of financing is sought.

“There could be other aspects of the project,” said Yates, referring to the possibility of work beyond constructing a new Wilkes County Office Building and an emergency services center and renovating the current county office building.

One thing mentioned in discussions among commissioners is the possibility of constructing a new facility that would also address facility needs of the Wilkes Department of Social Services. This has included the possibility of a new facility for a combined Wilkes County Health Department and Wilkes DSS.

Commissioners also have mentioned concerns about high construction costs and shortages of building materials.

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