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Commissioners to vote soon on construction manager for library project

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The Central branch of the Forsyth County Public Library, 660 West Fifth Street.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — The date when the Forsyth County Central Library will close to the public is still up in the air, but the county commissioners are expected to move along the renovation project this month by selecting a construction manager-at-risk, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

County staff had been eyeing October as a potential time to close the library so preconstruction work could begin, but County Manager Dudley Watts told the commissioners at a Thursday briefing that staff will see if it is possible to keep the library open longer without delaying the renovation.

Deputy County Manager Damon Sanders-Pratt explained afterward that once the construction manager-at-risk is on board, the firm can help determine whether it would be possible to do some preconstruction work while the library is still open.

The construction manager-at-risk will work with the architect and county staff to evaluate the building and give design input, helping determine how to best renovate the library with the money available.

Workers will need to inspect various aspects of the building, going into the ceilings, walls and floors.

“There may be a way we can find a happy medium,” Sanders-Pratt said.

Commissioner Dave Plyler said Thursday that he thought the county had talked about working on the renovation in sections but not closing the library permanently.

“It’s disappointing,” he said afterward.

The commissioners decided last year by a 4-3 vote to renovate the Central Library on Fifth Street instead of selecting a new site.

Plyler said one reason why he wanted to move the library to the former Sheriff’s Office was to avoid service interruption.

“What’s done is done,” he said.

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt said closing the facility during the renovation is what she had understood from the beginning.

“This is the most expedient way to do it, and that’s what our goal was,” Whisenhunt said.

“I’m glad we have a plan to get started,” Whisenhunt said. “The sooner we start the sooner it’ll be completed.”

The library will likely be closed for at least two years. Construction documents could be ready by May, and construction is estimated to take about two years.

Sanders-Pratt said some of the library services will still be available elsewhere, such as the North Carolina Room, Computer Training Bridge service and administrators, which will be moved to the county government center.

“Right now we are looking at services that we can provide to the public while we are closed,” said Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, director of the Forsyth County Public Library, on Thursday.

She said more details on those services will be available soon.

Commissioners Walter Marshall, Richard Linville and Dave Plyler said they hoped staff will inform the public about what services will be available.

The commissioners will be asked to vote on the construction manager-at-risk on Aug. 11. Staff received four proposals and has recommended Frank L. Blum Construction Company. The company would receive $50,000 for the preconstruction phase.

The county would try to negotiate with the construction company to manage the project during the construction phase, as well.

The construction manager-at-risk method will allow the construction manager to give input during the design phase. The method also guarantees the county a maximum construction price, Sanders-Pratt said.

The total project cost is estimated at roughly $28 million. The construction cost is estimated at about $20 million, or about $200 per square foot, Sanders-Pratt estimated.