Nearly 30 engineering firms are interested in having some input in Hall County's Glades Farm project.
About 40 people representing 28 groups showed up for Wednesday's pre-bid meeting to talk about the project qualifications and ask questions.
"With the way the economy is, the Board of Commissioners believes we can save on the fees and engineering side of this project," said Ken Rearden, director of public works and public utilities. "The new firm will assist with our project team and will work to get this reservoir permitted."
Hall County staff plan to submit Section 404 permit paperwork to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the North Hall reservoir by June 10.
"The permit is 98 percent ready to be submitted, and my team is assuring me they're on track to get that done within our time frame," Rearden said. "We're laser-focused on getting this permit, and we're looking for a team that can help us get through that permit process and get the permit tied with a silk bow."
Earlier this month, the county issued a request for proposals for additional engineering services to prepare for permitting. After phone calls and questions poured into the county's purchasing office, Rearden decided to hold a non-mandatory pre-bid meeting before the June 1 deadline.
Though the group only posed three questions, the interest and excitement was evident after the meeting as a few small groups formed to talk about ideas and look at maps.
"We don't see putting this thing off any longer for any reason," Rearden said. "This is going to be a tough decision, so you have to make yourself shine. You can see what your competition is in this room to get short listed."
County staff will evaluate the firms based on qualifications of the professional staff, experience on similar services, performance on past contracts and references for similar services. They will draft a short list and schedule interviews before submitting a proposal to commissioners.
In February, commissioners decided to issue the bid to cut costs on Glades Reservoir. They were split on the decision, with commissioners Craig Lutz, Scott Gibbs and Ashley Bell voting in favor and Tom Oliver and Billy Powell opposed.
"We're looking at this being a regional project, and we have good discussions going on with Forsyth County and Gainesville," Rearden told the firms. "Once the water wars settle down, we'll know what direction we will be taking in terms of all of the design work."