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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Research park authority picks consulting engineer

Posted by on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 5:18 PM

The board of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority chose Crafton Tull civil engineers to evaluate the three sites the Authority is considering for the park for park construction at a meeting this afternoon at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center.

Five companies — McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc., the Cromwell firm, Development Consultants Inc. and White-Daters & Associates in addition to Crafton Tull — responded to the Authority's request for proposals. The members of the authority, with Ed Drilling abstaining because of a family connection to one of the businesses, voted on the companies after individual studies of the proposals. They ranked the companies on a piece of paper and tallied up the rankings. White Daters came in second. It's not known how members voted; I'll ask for that information tomorrow. Only three members of the Authority board were at the meeting; a fourth, Jay Chessir, was on a speaker phone. Absent members had previously sent in their choices.

Authority member Dickson Flake noted that the voting process was unusual in that the Authority has no staff to evaluate and recommend to the board. He said copies of the proposals will be posted on a website scheduled to go up in a week to 10 days; the address will be lrresearchpark.com lrtechpark.com.

Flake said that the board initially asked for cost estimates from the bidders but on the advice of City Attorney Tom Carpenter informed bidders that it was contrary to a state statute to ask for bids and not to submit the estimates. The board returned an estimate provided by Crafton Tull, Crafton Tull senior vice president Jerry Kelso said.

Crafton Tull's proposal was the only one to include preliminary notes about the three sites, and it found several problems with a site proposed by Flake. Crafton Tull's pluses for the site, south of I-630 between Monroe Street on the west and Elm on the east, were that it is visible from the interstate, adjacent to a children's library being built and that UAMS employees could easily get there by car or on bike on the Jonesboro street bridge. Negatives: It will require the removal of 272 inhabited structures, will cause a "major disruption of a city grid," has no direct access from the interstate and has limited access from 12th Street, and is the furthest site from UALR, which like UAMS is supposed to provide the "intellectual capital" for the park.

An area off 12th Street between Fair Park and Jackson Street has better access from I-630, Crafton Tull said, but would require the removal of 123 inhabited structures. Grid disruption would be moderate. The third site, which encompasses the Methodist Children's Home campus, would require less demolition than the other two, but is the furthest from UAMS and would require the destruction of 113 inhabited structures (including the Methodist campus, presumably). The Methodist Children's Home is not, unsurprisingly, supportive of that area, since it has just invested in improvements there.

Board member Dr. Mary Good said it should take a couple of weeks to negotiate a price with Crafton Tull, and should one be agreed on, another six months for the study to be complete. A site could be selected 60 days after the study.

Flake and Good stressed that the engineers study would not provide the final word on the site selection. In fact, Flake said he is recommending that the board seek input from Angle Technology, which did the feasibility study on the park for the Chamber of Commerce.

The Crafton Tull proposal:

crafton_tull_tech_park.pdf

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