Two Mobile City councilmen have threatened to not approve a $1 million contract for sidewalk repairs unless the contractor hires a minority-owned firm as a subcontractor to help with the work.
Tyler Renfroe, of Asphalt Services Inc., was questioned by councilmen Fred Richardson and Levon Manzie at a regular meeting of the Mobile City Council Tuesday on his plans to comply with a city ordinance dating back to the formation of the city’s current type of government — one that requires the city “make every effort” to have 15 percent participation from “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” on each contract, or that 15 percent of the city’s contracts be awarded to such.“We have to do our best to make sure everyone able is represented,” Manzie told his fellow councilors during a pre-conference meeting. “If we don’t emphasize diversity on projects as big as this, where will we do it?”
Renfroe, whose Spanish Fort company is looking for the $1 million contract for various sidewalk repairs in districts 1-4, told councilors during the regular meeting he doesn’t normally need a subcontractor, but would get one if need be. Asphalt Services had previously indicated it would comply with the ordinance through their own employment. Renfroe said minorities make up 55 percent of the company’s workforce.
Manzie disagreed, saying that simply having minority employees do “grunt work” does not comply with the intention of the law.
“That’s a horse of a different color to have employees earning $7, or $8 … an hour,” Manzie said. “If that’s the benchmark, everyone will meet it. The benchmark is too low.”
Manzie and Richardson said they would not be supporting the contract unless Renfroe brought on a minority-owned subcontractor and complied with the law. Richardson added that 15 percent of the contract needed to go to a minority-owned business.
Councilman John Williams said forcing a contractor to hire a subcontractor wasn’t part of the law. He added that the law only states the city “make a reasonable effort” at the 15 percent benchmark.
Councilors also questioned Doug Harwell, of Harwell and Company, about how he would comply with the requirements, after he filled out a city form with “too be determined,” or “TBD” to explain his plans to deal with the law.“I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to put down ‘TBD,’” Richardson said during a pre-conference meeting. “It’s a copout. “I’m not voting on ‘TBD.’”
Harwell’s company, out of Semmes, is looking to be approved for a $954,000 contract for sidewalk repair in districts 5-7.
During the regular meeting, Harwell explained that he was working to secure minority-owned firms as subcontractors. Andre Course, an owner he’s in discussion with, joined him at the meeting. Course told councilors he had originally won the bid, but it was pulled after they found a discrepancy with his license. Supplier Diversity Manager Archinique Kidd told councilors Course only had a subcontractor license and not a general contractor license. Course said that has since been cleared up.
Despite the problem, Course told councilors he thought the system was fair to this point.
Manzie told Harwell that if he could get a deal done with Course by next week he would vote in support of the contract award.
Numerous times, Manzie said he wasn’t faulting Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration, which created the chief procurement officer and supplier diversity manager positions.
In other business, the council approved a $283,459 contract with Thompson Engineering for services in connection with complete street design services for Water Street.
The council voted to authorize an agreement with Mobile County for funding in the amount of $300,000 for restrooms at Herndon Park.
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