ASHEBORO – The Randolph County Commissioners voted to award a bid to the Holden Building Company to begin work on the Food, Farm and Family Education Center, also known as F3EC.
Construction at the site on Highway 64 could begin as early as October. It's scheduled to be complete by the end of 2024.
The project cost is about $5 million higher than the county's estimates.
County Engineer Paxton Arthurs presented five alternate designs. "Throughout the design project, we stayed slightly over budget, up to the end," he said. "We were always looking at ways to cut. These are some of the ways, going into the bidding process, that will give us some flexibility."
Commissioners approved Holden's bid for $28,913,936.
"The bids came at approximately five million over budget. Normally, that's a non-starter, but fortunately we have some funding that's come back to the county," Arthurs said.
Holden Building Company is in Greensboro. Arthurs said the county asked the company if they could lower the cost through subcontractors. "They've already given us over two pages of potential savings," he said. "We'll just have to review them in detail to make sure they don't change something else or leave us with a project we're not going to be happy with."
Commissioner David Allen asked what drove up the costs. Arthurs said one of the biggest issues is the amount of rock on the site.
Will Massie, finance officer, went through the funding they've accumulated over the years. He added some interest earnings and sales tax refunds. Cooperative Extension Manager Kenny Sherin has applied for more grants from the state.
"To move the project forward, we can use capital reserve funds and see how these grants shape out," Massie said.
Commissioners approved a project total of $35,136,200. They moved $4 million from the general fund to cover remaining costs.
"This has been a long process," Chairman Darrell Frye said. "We've had some highs and lows, some disappointments along the way. I think we're close to seeing this through."
He said he expects the F3EC will attract more private companies to invest in the area.