RADSS Restarting Search For New HQ

Hull Says He’s Tried To Accommodate Local Agency

The search continues for a new headquarters for the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services.

Twice in the past 10 months the RADSS board voted to enter into negotiations with Dr. Robert Hull, owner of Magnolia Square, for potentially leasing space in his medical offices complex on the east side of U.S. 11, just north of Lexington, but each time those talks stalled. The RADSS board has now opted to restart the process of soliciting proposals.

“We have a fairly new board and we’re trying to get caught up on all of the options,” board member Michelle Watkins told the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors last week. “We’re working more closely with both cities and the county to make sure we select the best location. … A lot has happened during [the search] the past two years.”

The board is looking to choose a firm to prepare a new request for proposals. “We’re looking at costs, considering needs,” said Watkins. “Right now we’re exploring options. We haven’t settled on any one location. We have [different] factors [to consider].”

Watkins and RADSS Executive Director Dinah Clark appeared before the supervisors during their regular meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 15, to give an update on the search for a new location. The supervisors had requested the update, which was an agenda item.

At the beginning of the meeting, during citizens comments, Hull complained about how the process has gone. “I’ve accommodated every change and request,” he said. “Construction costs have gone up 15 percent and we haven’t increased our prices. … I’m trying to be fair and equitable.”

He continues to hold the space, he said, “[But] we’ve been damaged by this process.”

The RADSS board last December voted to begin “exploratory” negotiations with Hull for potentially leasing the space in Magnolia Square that was formerly used by Rivermont School. In May the board, after looking at a proposal from developer Ed Walker to put the RADSS offices in downtown Buena Vista, opted to resume negotiations with Hull.

At last week’s meeting, Supervisor Dan Lyons asked Clark if there was a deadline for selecting a location. Specific details such as a deadline have not been posted online, she said.

Supervisor John Higgins said the last he’d heard, “there was an issue with the windows. Is it more than windows? Do we need so many square feet? Where are we at?”

Clark said there are various issues to be considered and the information would be included in a new RFP.

County attorney Vickie Huffman interjected that because this is property, rather than goods or services, RADSS isn’t subject to the same procurement laws that would otherwise apply. “They’re not required to do an RFP at all,” she said. “They have a lot of flexibility.”

“How does it look?” asked Supervisor David Hinty, when the sole respondent to the original RFP has put all of his information out there and the process drags on.

Hinty also asked about a “security issue” at RADSS’s current location in the Woody Building on Preston Street in downtown Lexington.

“We’re working with the landlord,” responded Clark.

RADSS’s lease at the Woody building is set to expire in March of 2020.

John Butler, chairman of the RADSS board, provided an update on the search on Thursday to Buena Vista City Council. He pointed out that the original RFP was issued two years ago and drew only one response, that being the Magnolia Square proposal.

He expressed hope that the new RFP would spur more interest. “We hope to get several proposals,” he said.

The News-Gazette

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