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Surry approves contracts for planning, economic development

Surry County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Oct. 7 to approve one-year contracts with four separate firms that will provide planning and economic development services.

When a developer submits plans to the county for permits and approvals, the county is responsible for retaining architects and engineers to evaluate the proposals for their merits and any concerns. But small localities such as Surry, and even some larger ones, “just don’t have these architects and engineers on staff,” and need to contract out those review processes, County Administrator Melissa Rollins explained.

Horace Wade III, Surry County’s director of planning and community development, said the services these contractors will provide will include reviewing erosion and sediment control plans for solar farms. But “the contracts are not just for evaluating site plans,” he added.

The county received bids from the four firms in July: Bowman, Timmons Group, AES Consulting Engineers and Summit Design & Engineering. Wade told the Board it was his recommendation to offer contracts to all four bidders.

Bowman quoted the county hourly rates ranging from $59 to $248 depending on which of the firm’s employees needed to be involved. Timmons quoted $55 to $275 per hour. AES quoted $51.30 to $205.20 per hour and Summit quoted $55 to $275 per hour.

“There are currently no estimates for any future projects at this time,” Wade said, when asked for the estimated annual cost to the county for the four contracts.

When the work involves reviewing site plans for solar projects, conditional use permits typically require these fees to be paid by the project’s developer, not the county, Wade said. But in cases where any one of the four firms’ cumulative expenses in a year exceeds $100,000, anything over that threshold would need to go before the Board of Supervisors for approval.

“This is something, Board members, that you’re seeing multiple jurisdictions do … I know localities such as Prince George and Dinwiddie, and even Sussex, have entered into very similar arrangements,” Rollins said.