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County: Too few minorities, women on $4M contract
by Noreen Cochran
October 22, 2013 05:34 PM | 1033 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Fulton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a nearly $4 million contract as the guaranteed maximum price to build a new Palmetto library, but not before decrying its shortage of minority- or female-owned enterprises as subcontractors.

The total value for minority- or female-owned businesses is 10.6 percent of the contract, or about $400,000, awarded to Hispanic-owned Gunby Construction of Roswell and female-owned 5th Generation Contracting of Marietta.

Interim Purchasing Director Felicia Strong-Whitaker said the goal is nearly 15 points higher.

“We haven’t established it for each library but what we like to see for construction is about 25 percent M/FBE participation,” she said.

Vice Chair Emma Darnell took to task not Atlanta-based general contractor New South Construction Group but the purchasing and facilities departments.

“Minority and female participation numbers tell us in fact whether or not we have been successful in outreach and disseminating information to all interested firms, irrespective of race or gender,” she said. “I’m not satisfied with these numbers and I think we need to make it real, real clear as we go forward that this board is not going to be very pleased with a guaranteed maximum price of 10 percent anywhere on a project that’s being funded by tax dollars.”

Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards agreed.

“I don’t feel right to even talk about this. So whatever we can do to increase that number, within the law, I think we should be in the process of doing that,” he said.

Strong-Whitaker said the process has a second chance to ramp up the percentage.

“We have a lot more in packages to go out under this project. We have another $1.5 million to bid out. They have about 25 more packages to go,” she said.

Darnell said the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s master plan is the subject of intense scrutiny.

“What we hear most from folks from one end of this county to another is not affirmative action. What we are hearing is economic development,” she said. “People want jobs. People want opportunities for businesses.”

The master plan is funded by a $275 million library bond approved by voters in 2008.

Phase I, costing $167 million, includes Palmetto, seven other new libraries and two expansions.

Phase II will be renovations.

“We’re borrowing money based on the taxpayers,” Darnell said. “That’s how we got the money. People want jobs and people want opportunities to contract with their government.”

The contract, which passed 6-0, guarantees the maximum price of constructing the 10,000-square-foot building is $3,951,623, of which New South receives 15.8 percent, or nearly $600,000.

The non-minority firms are New South, Weaver Grading of Holly Springs, Smith Ironworks of Lyerly, Capital City Glass of Lawrenceville, Blackwater Technologies of Carrollton, Smith Mechanical of Lawrenceville, Conditioned Air Systems of Gainesville and Dean Electric Co. of Fairburn.

Midtown-based Houser Walker Architecture won the $311,000 design contract, of which more than 26 percent went to minority- or female-owned businesses.

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Roger Clegg
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October 24, 2013
Why do race, ethnicity, and sex need to be considered at all in deciding who gets awarded a contract? It's good to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex. But that means no preferences because of skin color, etc. either--whether it's labeled a "set-aside," a "quota," or a "goal," since they all end up amounting to the same thing. Such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it breeds corruption and otherwise costs the taxpayers and businesses money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it's almost always illegal—indeed, unconstitutional—to boot (see 42 U.S.C. section 1981 and this model brief: http://www.pacificlegal.org/page.aspx?pid=1342 ). Those who insist on engaging in such discrimination deserve to be sued, and they will lose.
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