Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Quest Continues, Part II

At a special meeting at 8:30 this morning, the Columbia County Capital Resource Corporation (CRC) selected Urbahn Architects to carry out the space needs and programming study outlined in a Request for Proposals issued last month. Ken Flood, Commissioner for Planning & Economic Development, reported that eleven proposals had been received and explained the process used to review the proposals and arrive at the recommendation he was making to the CRC. Flood and two members of the county Planning & Economic Development staff did an initial review of the proposals, categorizing them as "top," "bottom," "maybe" based on the following criteria:
  • Cost
  • Experience
  • Familiarity with state requirements for county agencies
  • Expertise with green technology and alternative energy
  • Ability to service Columbia County
Initially, they narrowed the field to four: WASA (Wank Adams Slavin Associates); Urbahn Architects; Synthesis partnering with the Laberge Group; and CS Architects partnering with Clough Harbour. A second review determined that two of the groups--Urbahn Architects and Synthesis/Laberge Group--were stronger in terms of the primary goals of the space needs study. Finally, the choice was narrowed to one: Urbahn Architects, located in New York City, who will be working with P4H Inc, located in Golden's Bridge, in Westchester County. Flood noted in particular their experience in consolidating governmental offices. After some discussion, primarily about the plans to secure financing for the study, the members of the CRC voted unanimously to accept Flood's recommendation.

The study will be done in two parts. In Part I, the consultants will assess the space needs of county departments, analyze interdependency among departments, compare options for providing suitable office space, and identify a preferred option. Part I is expected to be completed by May 1 at a cost of $78,600. In Part II, the consultants will prepare an RFP for a design/build plan for the preferred option. The cost for Part II, assuming that the Board of Supervisors accepts the recommendation of Part I and decides to move forward, is still to be negotiated. 

This is not the first space needs assessment undertaken by or on behalf of the county--motivated by the fact the lease on the building where the Department of Social Services is located expires in June 2011. The first study, undertaken by the Board of Supervisors Capital Building Subcommittee in 2008, resulted in the purchase of the old Ockawamick School in Claverack, which remains unused today. The second study, undertaken by the Board of Supervisors Space Utilization Subcommittee in 2009-2010, resulted in the decision to keep the Department of Social Services in Hudson and narrowed the sites for a new DSS building down to two: the southwest corner of Fourth and State streets (a vacant lot owned by the City of Hudson) and the northwest corner of Fourth and Columbia streets (a vacant lot owned by Eric Galloway). Flood made the point, however, that there has never been an "unbiased, third-party, professional study done." The study currently being proposed will be that--to provide the impartial information necessary to "make a rational decision."

Although one of the objectives of the study stated in the RFP is to "compare costs of different facility scenarios ranging from doing nothing to locating in a single physical facility," it is hard not to infer from statements made by Flood that the real goal of the study may be to provide evidence that the plan to purchase the old Walmart building and move all county offices to Greenport except those required by law to be situated in the county seat is the "most logical and efficient solution." 

Flood will present the request for a loan of $78,600 from the Board of Supervisors to pay for the study at the meeting of the Board of Supervisors Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 22, at 5:00.  

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