Design contract awarded for new county Enterprise Information Technology and Employee Center on Southwest Quad

Total project cost, including construction, estimated at $27.2 million

This graphic shows the planned location of the new EIT building/Employee Center, on the Southwest Quad. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In approving their Jan. 10 Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the Sarasota County commissioners authorized County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to sign a $293,870 contract with Smith Seckman Reid — which is based in Nashville, Tenn. — for the design and construction of the Enterprise Information Technology (EIT) and Employee Center.

The Employee Center will be part of the county’s Human Resources Department, a document in the Jan. 10 agenda packet notes.

As is typical with their voting on the Consent Agenda, none of the board members offered comments on that item.

The county Capital Improvement Program budget that the County Commission approved for the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2023, said the total estimated cost of the EIT/Employee Center has been estimated at $27,200,800.

A county staff memo included in the Jan. 10 meeting packet reminded the commissioners that the new facility is planned on a parcel called the Southwest Quad, next to the Celery Fields. The four Quads parcels were part of the property that the county purchased decades ago to create the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Project, though the Quads were not needed for that initiative.

The Southwest Quad is located at the intersection of Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road, east of Interstate 75.

As The Sarasota News Leader reported on Jan. 12, the County Commission is moving ahead with plans for the construction of a new One Stop facility for the county’s Planning and Development Services staff on the Northwest Quad.

Before he had to retire from the board in November 2022, as a result of term limits, Commissioner Alan Maio talked at various times about the potential use of the Quads for new county buildings. Nonetheless, the County Commission in October 2020 gave the proverbial “green light” to the Sarasota Audubon Society and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, based in Osprey, for the “re-wilding” of the Quads, to create natural habitat and passive recreation on all of them except the Northeast Quad, which mostly comprises a stormwater pond. The re-wilding initiative was planned partly to benefit individuals who pursue bird-watching at the Celery Fields, which has become an internationally known destination for that purpose.

This rendering shows a meadow and a path leading to the bird blind at the Celery Fields, as proposed by Sarasota Audubon and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. Image courtesy Sarasota Audubon and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast

“Subject to further refinement of the user needs programming,” the Jan. 10 staff memo explained, the EIT structure, which will contain the department’s administrative offices, is anticipated to be a single story encompassing approximately 24,000 square feet. The total area of the Employee Center is expected to be between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet, the memo added.

The formal Work Assignment for the project explains that the offices will take up about 15,300 square feet, while approximately 5,700 square feet will be used for a data center. Another estimated 3,000 square feet will be allocated to “interior and exterior support spaces,” the document adds.

Moreover, the Work Assignment says, “The EIT Center is considered an essential facility and will be designed to Florida Building Code Risk Category IV.”

Table 1604.5 in the 2020 edition of the Florida Building Code explains that Category IV includes “[b]uildings and other structures designated as essential facilities, including but not limited to the following:

  • Occupancies having surgery or emergency treatment facilities.
  • “Fire, rescue, ambulance and police stations and emergency vehicle garages.
  • “Designated earthquake, hurricane or other emergency shelters.
  • Designated emergency preparedness, communications and operations centers and other facilities required for emergency response.
  • “Power-generating stations and other public utility facilities required as emergency backup facilities for Risk Category IV structures.
  • “Buildings and other structures containing quantities of highly toxic materials” that exceed maximum allowable quantities per control area or per outdoor control area “in accordance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code; and are sufficient to pose a threat to the public if released.
  • “Aviation control towers, air traffic control centers and emergency aircraft hangars.
  • “Buildings and other structures having critical national defense functions.
  • “Water storage facilities and pump structures required to maintain water pressure for fire suppression.”

Portions of the new county facility “may be designed to a higher standard depending on the preferred design solution,” the Work Assignment adds. Further, the document points out, “The EIT Center will be designed and constructed to provide redundancy in all aspects of critical systems. The extent and configuration of building support systems redundancy will be established by EIT staff and the Consultant during the earliest part of the design.”

Smith Seckman Reid’s work will “include a focused design review” involving energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor environmental quality, ensuring that the design meets the county’s requirements, the county memo continued. The construction phase services will include “site visits, meetings [and] various reviews,” the memo said. Among the foci of those reviews will be shop drawings, installation checklists, training, testing of system functions, LEED documentation and green building certification, the memo noted.