Three architectural teams vied for the county’s business in a new process covered under the recent revamp of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
The animal shelter selection committee heard presentations and asked questions during the meeting Wednesday, conducting interviews as was once done in private.
Deliberations on the sealed proposals and pricing can still be handled in closed executive session, but any committee meetings must be in public.
The Bacon Group of Clearwater, Fla., Jackson & Ryan Architects of Houston and RKS Green Consulting Group of Cumming, in collaboration with Shelterplanners.com, all hope to be selected to design the county’s animal shelter.
The shelter, approved as part of the November 1-cent sales tax referendum, is slated to be built on County Way for about $2 million.
Though revenue from the six-year tax extension won’t start coming in until July 2013, the county plans to borrow the money from its reserve fund to build a shelter and pay it back with interest.
A February presentation to commissioners showed projections that the 15,000-square-foot facility could be finished by fall 2013.
After about 30 minutes in a closed session Wednesday, the committee did not reach a decision on which firm to select.
That was due, in part, to one of the three members having to leave for a family emergency, said Donna Kukarola, the county’s procurement director.
The committee plans to meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and in the meantime has authorized Kukarola to negotiate with the firms.
The group may have a tough decision on which project team to select, as Martha Sing, one of the architects vying for the job, said “you’ve got three of the top animal shelter designers in this room.”
Sing, with Jackson & Ryan Architects, emphasized her team’s approach to create an inviting and safe atmosphere while adhering to budget.
“Animal shelters are tricky,” she said. “You’ve got to have this public appeal, but at the same time you don’t want design a Taj Mahal. You’ve got to be very careful where you put your money.”
All three firms agreed that proper mechanical systems for disease control were the top priority.
Both Jackson & Ryan and the Bacon Group recruited for their teams the same mechanical engineer, Scott Learned, who specializes in animal shelters.
Rick Bacon of the Bacon Group pointed to his experience in designing 135 animal shelter facilities.
“There’s not many questions that you can ask that we haven’t faced ourselves,” Bacon said.
He also emphasized his approach to keeping the county constantly involved in the design process with a program tool that keeps “a live document” on the Internet.
Though Jackson & Ryan and the Bacon Group are not local, both firms have added metro Atlanta or county architects and engineers to their teams.
Keith Allen, of local firm RKS Green Consulting Group, highlighted his personal investment in the project as a county resident, as well as his availability to be on site or at meetings any time.
However, with little experience in animal shelters, Allen joined with Bill Daggett of Shelter-planners.com to compete for the job.
Daggett said the team was selected for the project in 2009, when the county first considered building a new animal shelter. But the county then decided to change course on how to go about the bids, which led to this process.
That past relationship with Forsyth would save money in using plans from the first time around, he said.
He also spoke to his knowledge of programs that can reduce the homeless animal population, which he can incorporate in the design.
The firms also fielded questions about past facilities they’d designed and their plans for noise and odor control.
Also addressed were the materials they would recommend, their ideas to reduce maintenance costs and how they stay involved in the construction process.