Right thing, wrong time

As they sat in this afternoon’s meeting trying to figure out how give minority contractors some business, little did school superintendent Terry Grier or present board members know the catastrophe they would face about an hour later. The meeting pales in comparison but nonetheless was very interesting.

As the N&R has reported, contractors’ main beef is the requirement where subcontractors and their type of work be submitted with the bid.

Not only that, but Kenneth Johnson, author of the plan GCS is considering, wants contractors to submit a list of bids from all subcontractors, not just minority subcontractors, to make sure there’s no pattern of discrimmination.

Johnson explained that contractors are focus on being the low bidder going in and, if they get the project, low-ball subcontractors, thus (God forbid) playing subs off each other. But a price is a price, and either the subcontractors can afford to do the work or they can’t, right?

But if minority contractors still aren’t getting the work with “good faith efforts,” Johnson suggested the board consider a federal-style set aside program, something she realized would be politically risky. It would also be legally risky, as many local set-aside programs have been struck down in court.

There was an interesting exchange at the beginning between board member Amos Quick and system CFO Sharon Ozment. Quick expressed his belief that great strides in hiring minority contractors could have been during the repair of structural flaws Eastern, Hairston and Kernodle middle schools discovered earlier in the year.

True, but “the emergency nature of that situation dictated we focus on safe schools,” Ozment replied.

They’re in an emergency situation now, and not just short-term.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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