The Mobile Housing Board’s plan to redevelop some of its oldest housing complexes hit its first snag when commissioners failed to approve a new contract with James Brooks of the Atlanta-based Boulevard Group.
The four current members of the board voted 2-2 during their July meeting to enter into another 15-month, $277,500 contract with the Housing Transformation Plan 2020 program manager.
The tied vote means the measure failed this month and could be added to the August agenda. But commissioners Kimberly Pettway and Norman Hill want to see an accounting of what Brooks and Boulevard Group did to earn its previous 15-month, $397,500 contract. Commissioners Melvin Clark and Joyce Freeman supported the contract.
Boulevard Group had been under contract to oversee the redevelopment of both Birdville on the city’s south side and Roger Williams Homes to the north. The company requested the change because it has a previous relationship with Hunt Co., developer of the Roger Williams property.
The new deal could save the board an estimated $6.6 million over its life, as the agreement deletes a 2 percent developer fee paid to Boulevard Group for both properties. The monthly payments were also reduced from $26,500 to $18,500. If the second contract is approved, MHB would be on the hook for a total of $675,000 over 30 months.
“I have concerns over the program management fee,” Hill told the rest of the board. “What are the clear deliverables for the figure? I’m asking for a justification. What are the tasks you’re going to perform for that rate?”
Hill added “I can’t wrap my head around what you would do for that rate.” Pettway agreed, saying she had “no idea what we’re paying for,” especially since the conversion to the all-voucher Rental Assistance Demonstration was delayed for so long. Pettway reminded staff members the board’s commitment is to the public.
“I don’t know what this $26,500 got us,” she said. “Did we have goals? Have those goals been reached? Did they do what we outlined? Was there an evaluation done?”
Board CFO Lori Shackelford said it has received monthly reports from Brooks and “staff has worked closely with the Boulevard Group.”
“A lot of work has been done to get to this point,” Shackelford said.
Clark asked staff to account for the work and allow the board to review it.
“I know you’ve got it,” he said. “We’re not just giving money away.”
Hill took the suggestion a step further.
“Tell us what you’re going to do and attach an hourly rate to it,” he suggested.
Following the vote, Clark said in a short statement he hoped the board would not delay the transformation plan any further.
“I hope you would understand and embrace where this agency came from and where we are now and the work that’s involved,” he said. “Let’s not add more burden on the staff.”
He added that the board doesn’t “have to approve everything,” but said programs like Hope VI were working.
“My point is I hope we don’t allow what we’re doing to die,” Clark said. “Boulevard’s done some good work for us. We need to keep progressing. I know the word is out that the board is going in a different direction. I know word is out that we need new faces on the board, and that’s OK.”
Pettway said the board would continue to build upon what was started with RAD approval, noting she appreciated the work of staff and others.
“I know it’s disappointing when you’ve done work and we deny something,” she said. “It’s not a reflection on you or the work you’ve done.”
In other business, the board elected Pettway as chairwoman, after failing to reach an agreement during June’s meeting on who would assume the role after Don Langham resigned in May. Pettway was nominated by Freeman and unanimously approved.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson has yet to make an appointment to fill Langham’s spot on the board. Last month, city spokesman George Talbot said Stimpson was still weighing options.
The board also voted to raise premiums and reduce coverage for employees’ health insurance. The move would also phase Medicare-eligible retirees out of the plan.
The affirmative vote enters the board into a one-year contract with four one-year renewals with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. Out-of-pocket costs will increase under the new plan and premiums will increase as well, human resources coordinator Kathi Bryant said.
Premiums for single plans will increase by $12 per month and premiums for families by $27 per month. The out-of-pocket deductibles will increase from $2,000 to $3,000 for a single plan and from $4,000 to $6,000 for families. Copays will also increase under the new plan, going from $30 to $40 for doctor visits and from $30 to $50 for specialists, Bryant said.
The board also approved bids for architectural and engineering services related to RAD conversions, but left out one contractor because it failed to provide information on its disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) status.
Cole Appleman, director of capital improvements, said bids were requested from 27 contractors and six responded. Of those six, the board approved Allred Architectural Group, Studio 2H Design LLC, GLE Associates and Harvey M. Gandler Architects for possible future work with the board. Dakinstreet Architects LLC was removed from consideration based on concerns about its DBE status.