[Photo: Commissioners and Metcon officials look at a model of downtown Raeford.]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Hoke’s new courthouse needs a “wow” factor, but also has to be built to stand for generations – just as its predecessor has done for the last century, county commissioners discussed Monday.
“We want people to say ‘wow’,” Chairman Harry Southerland said of the project.
The commissioners took another step this week toward building a new county courthouse and administrative building. The board saw presentations from five companies interested in working with the county on the combined project for the two buildings. Seven companies responded to the request for qualifications sent out earlier this year, and commissioners narrowed the field to five options for closer consideration.
Board members questioned representatives from each of the companies on a variety of topics. Commissioners sought details on issues such as how much the companies’ latest projects have cost to build per square foot, and how they proposed to include locally-owned and minority-owned companies in the subcontracting process.
Barnhill Contracting, Bordeaux Construction, HH Architecture, Samet Corporation and Metcon representatives offered answers and overviews of what their companies can bring to the project. Commissioners will have the opportunity to consider the options and could vote at a future meeting to select one of the companies for the job.
The board voted earlier this year to have the project handled as “design-build,” with one partnership team responsible for both the architectural designs and the actual construction process. Multiple contractors working under one umbrella could bring the new buildings to life.
Designing the future
As part of the presentations, some of the companies offered a very preliminary look at options for the new courthouse and administrative building. All of them used the empty lot next to the existing courthouse as the location for the design possibilities. A few proposed options would connect the new with the old through central lobby entrances.
Bordeaux Construction unveiled artwork of a large, multi-story courthouse with large front columns in keeping with the style of the historic Hoke County Courthouse. HH Architecture presented three-dimensional sketches of possible layouts for how the two buildings could be located on the site. As part of the Metcon presentation, representatives displayed a model of downtown Raeford with removable mock buildings to show options for how the courthouse and admin building could fit onto the space.
Each of the companies brought its own unique contributions to the proposals.
HH Architecture’s team included a security and risk management consultant, and an interior designer to help with planning the finished look. Bordeaux Construction teamed up with Raleigh Raised, a development business seeking to “shine light on the under-representation of the Black community in local development efforts,” according to the company’s website. Samet Construction brought up the need for a noise management plan to keep construction impacts as minimal as possible for the surrounding neighborhood, including businesses, churches and an elementary school.
Several of the companies proposed bringing young people into the project in various ways. Samet works with a students in construction program to offer paid jobs for a handful of high school students interested in getting hands-on training in the construction field. It would also allow criminal justice students from Fayetteville Technical Community College to be part of the process to see what goes into designing a courthouse.
Experience and connections
The companies’ representatives discussed previous experience in construction on public projects similar to the one in Hoke County. As just a few examples, Barnhill Construction worked on the Lincoln County Courthouse, Wake County Justice Center and Brunswick County Courthouse; Bordeaux worked on the Richmond County and Orange County courthouses, and has done work on projects in Hoke before; HH Architecture worked on the North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s Training Facility and the Randolph County Agricultural Events Center; Samet is currently working on the new Forsyth County Courthouse; and Metcon has worked on Sandy Grove Middle School, the Cumberland County Detention Center, Robeson County Department of Social Services and the city of Raleigh’s operations center.
Some discussed partnerships with firms that have greater experience in courthouse construction. Metcon’s presentation introduced the Silling architect firm, which specializes in justice and government projects, and has worked on dozens of courthouses.
Many of the companies could boast of winning awards for past work, such as HH Architecture’s AIA Triangle Firm of the Year honor, and Metcon’s repeat honors as the National Minority Construction Firm of the Year.
Several of the companies also have local connections, either from team members born and raised in Hoke County who now work for the design firms, or through partnerships with companies that have worked with the county before on other projects.
“You did not hurt yourselves by bringing Hoke County folks here,” Commission Vice Chairman Allen Thomas told Barnhill Construction representatives, who introduced one of their team members as a Hoke High graduate.
HH Architecture works with LKC Engineering in Aberdeen, which has also worked with the county on public utility projects. Besides building Sandy Grove Middle School, Metcon is currently working on building the county’s James A. Leach Aquatic and Recreation Center on U.S. 401. Metcon also works with J&K Construction, and SFL+a architects, both familiar names in local construction.
Costs and considerations
One issue any company selected will have to deal with is the cost of materials. The cost of building has gone high over the last year for a variety of reasons, with the result of higher expenses and occasional material shortages. The sooner the project can get started and begin buying building materials, the less expensive it’s likely to be for the county, the board members heard from the presentations.
Several of the proposals suggested including one floor more than the county currently needs in its courthouse to allow for further expansion. The county is looking at building up to four stories tall, and leaving one as a shell for later growth could save money down the road when the time comes, officials discussed.
The county could potentially get about $31 million in funding from the state to pay for the courthouse, if a proposed draft budget currently working its way through the General Legislature passes and becomes law. The draft includes a large package of courthouse funding for multiple counties, including Hoke, as well as infrastructure money for Cumberland County. If the funding does not come from the state, local leaders will have to consider other options to pay for the project.
Southerland said the county wants to create a building that will stand the test of time and serve Hoke County citizens for generations to come, just as its predecessor has done.
“We’re building not just for today but for the future,” he said.