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Growth planners pick consultant firm
Former Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliffe - photo by Courier file photo
Even with five opposing votes, the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership during a Friday meeting ranked IBI as its top consulting firm choice.
At the last meeting on Jan. 30, the four-county group’s executive committee narrowed the nine applicants to RS&H, EDAW and IBI.
To fund a growth management consultant, the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment is putting up about $375,000. The partnership is responsible for a non-monetary 10 percent match to be offered in kind.
Under the grant agreement, OEA also will provide advice for the project’s scope.
Sonny Timmerman, the group’s temporary director, reported IBI’s proposal at a little more than $200,000, compared to RS&H’s approximate $700,000 and EDAW’s approximate $600,000. The highest bidder was about $1.5 million and IBI asking price was the lowest.
Timmerman said a lot depends on the scope of work and responding to it.
It concerned Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas that a price cap has not been set and the proposing firms did not know the budget.
 “As a project manager, I always want to know what I have to spend and right now we don’t know what we have to spend,” Thomas said.
But negotiations only happen after a team is selected, according to Timmerman.
Board members tossed around several factors, including local input and work experience, before taking the vote to accept the committee’s recommendation.
Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin, one of the opposing votes, brought up differences in IBI’s written proposal and oral presentation.
“My impression, from what I have read, there was very little or no references on [IBI],” Martin said. “We received only one reference and that was an incomplete reference.”
Mike Riddle, the group’s treasurer, said he was in favor of IBI because it would work to be more inclusive.
“They put out that they’ll be more of an outreach to the smaller municipalities,” Riddle said.
With pros and cons from all three groups, Tom Ratcliffe suggested possibly employ-ing services from all three.
But Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin warned against it.
“I think we need to consider very seriously one who is responsible for the entire job,” Austin said.
Mike Melton, Richmond Hill city manager, wanted to see work begin quickly, referencing phone calls from worried residents. And home building is a major industry in Richmond Hill, according to Melton.
 “People are looking for answers and we need to have answers as soon as we can get them,” Melton said.
Representatives from Liberty, Bryan, Long and Tattnall counties formed the partnership last year to brace for the estimated 10,000 soldiers from the incoming brigade and meet expansions in housing, education, transportation and other needs.
“A lot of it had to do with understanding the scope and responding to it,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman agreed there was a difference.
Thomas said he has worked with all three of the finalists.
“Basically, all of them do very good work,” Thomas said. “I don’t see any major hang-ups.”
“It’s always easy to coach from the chief seat,” Ratcliffe said.
Broader experience
“You’re looking at folks who had a lot of depth,” Ratcliffe said.
I’d look to pick one from each

“I back trying to figure out if you can cherry pick this,”
Ratcliffe said the review team’s choice confirmed his initial gut reaction
Timmerman said it was possible to assign tasks between all three.
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