County commissioners selected HDR as its preferred architectural and engineering firm during a special meeting Monday.

The process began June 19 with a request for proposals released, with seven received July 9. From July 10-17, a selection committee of representatives from the county and the city of Waxahachie worked independently to score the proposals.

On July 18, the committee met to tabulate results, with oral interviews conducted July 26.

“Each firm was allowed 40 minutes for a presentation and 20 minutes for question and answer,” county engineer Joe White said. “Each firm brought in six to 12 people, subcontractors and things like that.”

White said the committee was unanimous in scoring HDR as the preferred firm.

“HDR started in 1930 as Henningson Engineering Company, and in 1950 it became Henningson, Durham and Richardson,” White told commissioners. “In 1997 it became HDR.”

The firm is employee owned, with 140 offices and 6,200 employees. Building Design and Construction Magazine has ranked HDR among its top 10 architecture and engineering firms for the last 10 years, with Engineering News ranking the firm 17th and World Architecture Magazine ranking it third in criminal justice. The firm has worked with 200 governmental entities in the State of Texas.

“I can tell you this, they were very at ease,” White said.

Commissioners voted to authorize county staff to begin negotiations with HDR.

“They will be teamed up with Freese and Nichols to provide site work and some design assistance,” White said. “Given the beauty of the fact that Freese and Nichols had input into the budget proposal, it’s going to be hard to say they can’t meet the budget.”

Commissioners also heard recommendations from the county’s financial advisor, Jim Sabonis of First Southwest Company, and County Auditor Mike Navarro with regard to Underwriter Services for issuance of the county’s $53.875 million bond, approved by voters on May 12.

A request for proposals for underwriter services was released June 27, with interviews of the short list held July 18. A bond purchase agreement is expected for consideration in the commissioners’ Aug. 13 meeting.

“We had 11 responses to the RFP,” Navarro said. “The responses were graded on firm description, capital available, transaction history, history in Texas, history with general obligation bonds and history with Texas counties, as well as proposed market strategy for the bonds, the quality of their personnel, the references they were able to put forth, their presence in the community and past Ellis County experience.”

Navarro said Bank of America has one bank in Ellis County, with 12 employees, while senior vice president R.R. “Tripp” Davenport has assisted the commissioners court in the past. Southwest Securities formerly served as the county’s financial advisor.

“Both of those firms are the firms that received points based on community experience,” Navarro said.

Sabonis said proposals were compared to like proposals - Wall Street or national firms compared to other national firms, regional firms compared to regional firms, minority firms compared to minority firms.

Adams made a motion to approve Banc of America Securities LLC as the head underwriter for the issuance of the bonds, with A.G. Edwards & Sons, RBC Capital Markets and Southwest Securities each accepting a percentage of the risk (70-10-10-10 percent, respectively).

“I think the judge made a good decision,” Sabonis said. “The Wall Street firm was the dominant participant with thehighest points.”

A plan is in place to create an opportunity for local investors to purchase the bonds, as well.

“They will actually set them aside and they will be sold at the same price they would be to institutional investors, just local investors will have priority,” Sabonis said. “Every effort will be made but at no cost to the taxpayers.”

In other business, commissioners approved a contract for filming of a commercial at the Ellis County Courthouse on Aug. 1, as well as a contract for professional services with Local Government Solutions to provide imaging and indexing services for records in the county clerk’s office.

No action was taken on a request to approve a preliminary plat for Aday Estates in Pct. 3.