Engineers keeping tabs on Richland’s road plans

dhinshaw@thestate.comSeptember 23, 2013 

With initial contracts worth $186 million on the line, discussions about how Richland County will divide road planning and design work among local firms is generating a lot of interest.

Monday, a meeting of council members with new transportation director Rob Perry drew five firms. Audiences at recent council meetings have been similarly dotted with potential contract management and engineering firms.

“It’s a big opportunity for the citizens of Richland County – and for firms who do engineering and construction,” said Rocque Kneece, with Civil Engineering Consulting Services, busy taking notes during Monday’s meeting.

Sitting next to him was Jennifer Manucy, with OLH Inc., a small, woman-owned project management firm.

Perry, who’s been on the job about a month, told members of the transportation committee he hopes to select a contract management firm by January. The project manager alone stands to make $27.5 million.

The firm will administer the $737 million program of road building and improvements, including plans for new sidewalks and trails. It will be in charge of financial planning, right-of-way acquision, utilities relocation, permits and inspections – basically everything except final design work, Perry said.

The project manager will be required to set up a web site where citizens can check the status of projects that interest them, Perry said.

Councilman Damon Jeter said he’d like staff to choose the top three firms to be interviewed by the council.

“You’re staff, so you don’t get on the political side of things,” Jeter told Perry. “But a lot of times, companies will ask for short-listing so they can give a presentation to council.”

Councilman Kelvin Washington added, “We’re going to have to have input in some way.”

During the campaign to win voter approval of the historic plan for countywide transportation improvements, council members promised to do what they could to boost the local economy by keeping the money here.

The penny-on-the-dollar tax will generate $1.07 billion over 22 years.

For now, the council is focused on the front-end planning and design work.

But Perry said he hopes construction will start in summer 2014 on the first projects – dirt-road paving, resurfacing and intersection improvements. The widening of Hard Scrabble Road should start in summer 2015, Perry said; that high-profile project is being done by the S.C. Department of Transportation.

All firms the county hires will be judged on their ability to employ women- and minority-owned subcontractors.

Councilman Jim Manning’s reaction to the meeting was that it involves “a lot of money.”

“This is hugely important,” he said, “and we need to figure it out quickly to be moving forward.”

Members of the council transportation meeting are Washington, Manning and council members Joyce Dickerson, Norman Jackson and Paul Livingston, who serves as chairman. The council has a separate citizen advisory committee which was to meet later Monday.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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