Samet picked to build courthouse over committee recommendation

Forsyth County Commissioners have selected Samet Corp. and Balfour Beatty Construction as the construction managers at risk to build a new courthouse in this vacant lot on Chestnut Street.

Samet picked to build courthouse over committee recommendation
September 13
09:37 2018

It took two votes for Forsyth County commissioners to determine who would build the new Hall of Justice, and they decided 6-1 to go with a different pick than what their committee of stakeholders recommended.

The vote took place during the commissioner’s meeting last Thursday, Sept. 6. The replacement of the aging courthouse has a $120 million budget and drew proposals from three teams of construction companies vying to be the project’s construction managers at risk. The companies had given extensive presentations on their qualifications to an appointed committee of stakeholders, which included those who work at the courthouse. The committee recommended the team of Whiting-Turner Contracting and Holt Brothers Construction.

However, the ultimate decision was up to commissioners, who could pick the other teams that applied, which were Frank L. Blum Construction Co. teamed with Barnhill Contracting Co. and Samet Corp. teamed with Balfour Beatty Construction. Commissioners heard from each of the three teams during drop-in sessions last month.

Subcontractors that worked with Samet also spoke during the public comment sessions at commissioner meetings in recent weeks.

“As a small business owner, local, we really appreciate Samet and all the business opportunities they offer us,” said Melissa Dolesh with ABS (American Building Services), which Samet uses for cleaning.

Attorney Richard Bennett told commissioners his committee spent many hours on their recommendation, which they approved 11-1, and hoped the commissioners would accept it. He felt Samet should have accepted their decision.

“That company ignored the selection process and put a full-court press on you after the fact to get the job,” said Bennett.

Commissioner Everett Witherspoon said he was “extremely impressed” by Samet. He said he’d heard many complaints from subcontractors working for other construction companies, but never any about Samet. He said he’d gotten calls from contractors praising Samet.

“For the first time in eight years since I’ve been on this board, I’ve never seen so many subcontractors calling me up,” he said.

Witherspoon said that while Whitening-Turner did partner with Holt Brothers, a Raleigh-based minority-owned company founded by former football stars Terrence and Torry Holt, he felt the Holts’ gridiron success made them wealthy and gave them an advantage. He felt Samet gave chances to less prominent minority subcontractors.“NFL players are going to be all right,” he said.

Commissioner Vice Chairman Don Martin wanted to go with the committee recommendation.

“If we were going to make this decision to start with, why did we create the committee?” he said.

Commissioners elected to vote using paper ballots to select one of the three teams. It ended up being a 3-3 tie between Whiting-Turner and Samet, with one vote for Blum. Witherspoon was joined by Fleming El-Amin and Richard Linville, who were also impressed with what they’d seen and heard on Samet. Martin, Dave Plyler and Ted Kaplan voted for Whiting-Turner. Gloria Whisenhunt voted for Blum since they’re a locally owned company whose extensive local portfolio of work includes the county’s Central Library renovations, which came in under budget.

Immediately after the first vote was counted, commissioners chose between the two teams that tied, with Samet winning the second vote 6-1 with Martin as the sole vote for Whiting-Turner.

The team of Samet and Balfour will now evaluate the site, estimate construction costs, seek preliminary subcontractor bids and then submit a Guaranteed Maximum Price. If the county accepts that price, then those companies will complete the construction on the project and will be responsible for any cost overruns.

The new courthouse is planned as two five-story buildings joined by a pedestrian bridge. One building will be for court facilities that’ll be built in a vacant lot beside the Government Center on Chestnut Street and the other will be an office building across the street. A parking deck may be built on the other side of the neighboring Wells Fargo deck, or the county may lease spaces in downtown lots and decks for courthouse parking.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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