NC expects to hire 60 employees to implement new software system

dbracken@newsobserver.comAugust 5, 2013 

The state has revised the specifications for new office space for the Department of Health and Human Services after realizing it will need 60 additional employees to implement a new software system.

In June, the state put out a request for proposals seeking 72,386 square feet for the team that is implementing NC Fast, a software system designed to improve the way the agency and counties deliver food stamps and eventually other benefits and services.

Five property owners submitted bids with Pinnacle Park LLC, a partnership that owns the Durham building at 4407 Silicon Drive, submitting the low bid. A lease between Pinnacle Park and the state was placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Council of State, which must approve the lease.

But on Friday the state notified the bidders that it had revised the specifications for the new space, and is now seeking 83,618 square feet. The five original bidders have until Aug. 14 to submit new proposals.

Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for DHHS, said the specifications have changed to accommodate the additional people. He said they are needed to provide better support and customer service during the next phase of the system’s implementation.

That explanation hasn’t satisfied Neal Coker, a partner in Pinnacle Park, who believes that the proposal was revised so that the NC Fast employees would end up in a nicer building in Cary. The Cary building, at 200 Lucent Lane in the Regency Park, was one of the five original bidders for the lease.

“If I thought this was legitimate I’d suck it up and take it like a big boy,” Coker said. “But ... they’re just trying to rig this thing for the Lucent building.”

A leasing agent for the Lucent building declined to comment. The 125,000-square-foot building is owned by New York-based Lexington Realty Trust.

Diaz declined to respond to “speculation or specific bids at this point, particularly because bidding is still open and the Department of Administration is waiting for bidding to close to evaluate submissions.”

The revised proposal requires 432 parking spaces, up from 373 under the original. It also changes the desired location for the office space. The original request listed the location as “Raleigh/RTP, NC area.” The revised request just says the Raleigh area and adds that the agency prefers a location in proximity to the Dorothea Dix campus near downtown Raleigh.

DHHS has about 1,400 workers on the Dix campus.

The state is still seeking a four-year lease with the option to renew for a fifth year.

The low bid originally submitted by Coker’s group called for the state to pay just over $1 million in annual rent during the first year, with the rate escalating to about $1.44 million in the final year of the lease.

Diaz said the additional staffing needs for NC Fast can be accommodated within the project’s existing budget.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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