Geauga County Commissioners moved one step closer Tuesday to moving forward with plans for constructing new county offices.

Commissioners agreed unanimously to seek requests for qualifications for professional design services for the project. The statements of qualifications are to be received no later than 4:30 p.m. Dec. 28.

Gerry Morgan, assistant county administrator, told commissioners that they would be under no obligation to accept any of the statements from professional designers, but would allow the county to be prepared to act quickly once a decision has been made.

“It will put us in a position to move forward quicker,” Mr. Morgan said.

He said the county received one lone proposal when it sought professional planning services last year as commissioners were just beginning to look at the possibility of whether to renovate existing offices or build new facilities.

Mr. Morgan said now that commissioners have reviewed possible construction projects estimated between $44 million and $50 million, interest in working on the project should attract more professional planners to submit statements of qualifications.

In early November, commissioners reviewed four possible projects, including a $56 million renovation of existing county offices. By the end of November, commissioners voted unanimously to abandon existing county offices in favor of the less expensive building options.

One of those options calls for a single-story building to house all county departments on 35 acres of county-owned property on the south side of the city of Chardon for $44 million. A second option on the same site would provide a two-story building for $46 million. Commissioners are also considering a third option that would split county offices between the Chardon city site and a site in Claridon Township for an estimated $49 million.

Mr. Morgan said the county would have no obligation to accept any of the designers’ proposals until they decide to execute a contract with one of the firms.

Commissioner Timothy Lennon said he also anticipates greater interest from designers who now know commissioners are “serious” about moving forward with the project. “It puts you on the map,” he said.

County Administrator David Lair said commissioners will also have to begin soliciting interest from others who may be able to provide financing options and how the project will be handled in terms of hiring a construction manager or simply building using a contractor who follows the architect’s design.

Mr. Lennon added that commissioners must also begin to formulate a timeframe to follow for bringing the building project to fruition.

Mr. Morgan said a 3- to 3 ½-year timeframe is the most likely realistic timeframe for getting shovels in the ground.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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