A Delaware-based architect is the leading candidate to design the expansion of Delaware County's central office building.

A Delaware-based architect is the leading candidate to design the expansion of Delaware County's central office building.

The Delaware County commissioners last Monday voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Gardner Architects, which likely will design renovations and an estimated 1,300-square foot addition to the Rutherford B. Hayes County Services Building, 140 N. Sandusky St.

The company, located on East Winter Street in Delaware, was identified by a review committee as the best fit for the project out of a pool eight potential architectural firms. The committee included Delaware County facilities supervisor Jon Melvin and county juvenile and probate court Judge Kenneth Spicer.

"Now we can enter into contract negotiations," Melvin said. "Now we're getting to the point where we can talk about costs."

The committee ranked its top four choices for the project. Gardner bested fellow applicants Feinkopf Macioce Shappa Architects, Schorr Architects, and Mecham and Apel Architects.

Melvin said familiarity with the firm -- which designed renovations to the former Hall's furniture building, now called the Frank B. Willis Government Building, at 2081 U.S. Route 23 North -- and its experience with similarly sized projects propelled Gardner.

"We used them on the Willis Building and some smaller projects," he said. "This is a fairly small project.

"It's less than 10,000 square feet. A lot of it's already unfinished. It's just a matter of putting up walls."

In April, the commissioners announced plans to upgrade the 74,654-square Hayes building. The project would mark the first major renovations to the facility, which opened in 2002 and houses a number of county offices, including those of the prosecutor, auditor and department of job and family services.

Preliminary plans call for the expansion of the prosecutor's third-floor office, as well as the construction of an employee fitness room. A ground-floor space currently occupied by the Delaware County Board of Elections also would be renovated following the board's planned relocation to the Willis Building this December.

Following the latter upgrades, the county's probate and juvenile court would move to the Hayes building. In recent years, office space constraints have forced the county to pay $21,310 a month to house the court in a rented building at 88 N. Sandusky St.

"We want to get the architect on board as soon as possible," Melvin said. "We want to go out to bid (for construction) by November so we could do the work as soon as the board of elections moves out."

Once a construction team is in place, Melvin said, the expansion and renovations likely would take four months to complete.

In agreeing to enter negotiations with Gardner, county commissioner Glenn Evans said the firm has served the county well in past dealings.

"It's a very good firm that's rated No. 1," he said. "We've used them previously on our projects."