Despite being the lowest bidder on one of the two recent contracts approved by the Mobile City Council, PLP Enterprises Owner Andre Course will not be taking the lead on the project.
In fact, Course said he didn’t know he’d been kicked out of the bid process for a licensing issue until the next lowest bidder, Doug Harwell, of Harwell & Company, contacted him with an offer to be a subcontractor.
Before the Mobile City Council voted unanimously to award a roughly $1 million contract to Harwell for citywide sidewalk repair, Course told councilors he felt like the city should’ve given him an opportunity to clear up the issues with his bid.
He also pointed out that Harwell was not kicked out of the process when the city allowed his company to change a form pertaining to how his company would contribute to participation from socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, or business enterprises.
Harwell added Course’s company as a subcontractor for the sidewalk repairs in order to meet the city’s current efforts to diversify contractors used in public projects.
“We’re ready to do the project, but we feel like the door has been closed,” Course said. “We got an opportunity from this, but it’s a fraction of what it would’ve been. It’s like a stipend.”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the administration attempted to contact Course in a variety of ways, and City Engineer Nick Amberger confirmed to the council that he spoke to Course in person about the problems with his bid.
City Attorney Ricardo Woods added that’s there’s no wiggle room in the law pertaining to state licenses to allow for a contractor to tweak a bid once it has been knocked out of the process.
“There’s no negotiation on that,” Woods told councilors.
On the other hand, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise forms, he said, are set up for public scrutiny and can be tweaked if need be.
“It’s an ordinance, it’s within our purview and can be changed,” Woods said.
Councilman Fred Richardson said he disagreed.
He argued that the ordinance requiring the council to make every effort to award 15 percent of the work, or 15 percent of the value of the contract to a minority owned firm was equal to the state law requiring a general contractor’s license.
Richardson added that Harwell had initially put “TBD” or to be determined on the forms associated with the ordinance.
“If all of your paperwork isn’t in order, you should be turned down,” he said. “In the future, I would like to see that happen.”
Councilman Levon Manzie said he can see both sides to this issue and is happy Course found work on the project through Harwell’s company. He said he hoped more capable and qualified people within the minority community could have opportunities in the future.
“If we don’t make demands … then those opportunities won’t be presented to them,” Manzie said. “I hope other opportunities will be available on future projects for people like (Course.)”
Councilman John Williams said “giving away contracts just because” is not the way to accomplish what the city is trying to accomplish. He said Mobile needs more general contractors, in order to make the process work.
Manzie disagreed and pointed to a 2014 study he said highlighted a disparity in the awarding of contracts to members of minority communities.
“The stark disparity will continue … with views like yours,” he said, responding to Williams.
Williams shot back, “that’s not true. That’s not what I said.”
Council President Gina Gregory ultimately had to shout both councilors down and regain order at the meeting.
“If we follow down the path we’ve followed for the last 300 years where some residents can’t participate in a process they paid into,” Manzie continued. “If we are not intentional in how we build capacity, the same community will rise while others continue to fall.”
The council unanimously awarded a second $1 million contract for sidewalk repairs to Asphalt Services, after the contractor gave the city a list of subcontractors they could use.
In other business, votes on four additional capital improvement projects were delayed a week after Williams withheld consent. Any councilor can withhold consent on an agenda item on first read without debate.
Stimpson said he was disappointed by Williams’ decision to hold up the votes, following a consensus from councilors last week that the projects paid for by the extension of a sales tax increase would be placed on the consent agenda to allow work to begin sooner.
Stimpson added that all the citizens would be “disgusted” by the move.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).