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Demolition king to tear down Howard Park eyesore

Pless Jones uses a winning formula for minority and women-owned subcontractors.

pless jones SRB

Pless Jones (left) applauds Mayor Rawlings-Blake at the Maryland Minority Contractors Association banquet in July.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

City Hall’s favorite demolition contractor, Pless B. Jones, won another plum award at yesterday’s Board of Estimates meeting, this time to raze the long-vacant Super Pride grocery store in Howard Park.

As was the case last week, Jones satisfied the city’s requirements for using minority- and women-owned subcontractors by hiring his son’s firm and a company that is operated from his corporate address.

The same lineup of RBJ Contracting and Cleo Enterprises helped Jones’ P&J Contracting Co. win a contract last week that was 74% higher than a competing bid. The Board of Estimates rejected the lower bid because it did not meet minority requirements.

Yesterday’s $428,300 teardown is part of a plan to bring a ShopRite store to the Liberty Heights corridor, a so-called “food desert” since Super Pride closed its doors in 1999.

The former Super Pride building (background) will be torn down by the Pless Jones group on the 4600 block of Liberty Heights Ave. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The former Super Pride building (background) will be torn down by Pless Jones on the 4600 block of Liberty Heights Ave. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Community activist Kim Trueheart, who attended yesterday’s meeting, applauded the grocery store project, but said she hoped Jones’ demolition “won’t resemble Durham Street,” referring to citizen complaints about the rubble left behind at another P&J site in the city.

The demolition company has received more than $20 million in awards from the city since 2005, including for the leveling of the Uplands Apartment complex and emergency and planned demolition of more than 300 scattered houses for the housing department. Its biggest ongoing project has been the razing of more than 600 houses for the biopark development project in East Baltimore.

Pless Jones has been a strong political backer of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, contributing $8,000 personally and through his demolition company, and serving on the host committee of her re-election fundraiser at the Hippodrome Theatre.

The mayor, meanwhile, has been a champion of Jones’ trade association, the Maryland Minority Contractors Association. She spoke at MMCA’s “summer soiree and awards banquet” at Martins West in July.

The demolition contract was unanimously approved by the board, which includes Rawlings-Blake, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who was represented yesterday by City Council Vice President Edward Reisinger.

Other Contracts Approved by Board

In other action, the board approved the following items:

$1,085,240 to Allied Contractors Inc. for pedestrian lighting in the Hunting Ridge, Ten Hills and Franklintown neighborhoods of West Baltimore.

A competitor, Civic Construction, bid nearly $100,000 less for the contract ($989,000), but was rejected when bids were opened because its subcontractor, Oelmann Electric, was not certified as a minority contractor.

Oelmann is now certified, attorney J. Mitchell Kearney told the board, and Civic should receive the award. The board rejected his argument, saying it was the contractor’s “responsibility to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed,” in the words of Ed Reisinger.

(By the way, there’s only 19% minority-women representation in the Allied bid, far below the city’s goal of 37%.)

$880,400 again to Allied Contractors for sidewalk improvements at Union Square Park and Latrobe Park Athletic Court. The approval papers note that minority participant, Mendocino General Contractors, is not in “good standing” with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. But the board allowed Allied Contractors to substitute another minority contractor if Mendocino fails to satisfy state officials.

$2,231,393 to Patton Harris Rust & Associates and Hazen Sawyer to act as consultants on the Deer Creek Pumping Station for the bureau of water and wastewater. The consultants will handle on-site inspections, approval of equipment, final reviews of contract change orders and claims, and advisory services to the construction management division.

• $900,000 to Location Age LLC for “geographic information systems” for various city agencies. This is a non-bid renewal of a contract awarded in May 2007. The latest increase will make the total award worth $4.45 million.

$750,000 to Greenman-Pedersen for “on-call” engineering design services for the Department of Recreation and Parks. The three-year contract will include consulting for city parks and rec centers.

• $733,791 to Machado Construction Co. for “citywide sidewalk rehabilitation.” Machado had only 27% minority-women’s participation, but was nevertheless found in compliance by the city’s Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office (MWBOO).

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  • Anonymous

    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 (as the city of Baltimore has in the past).

    • Crowsonguy

      you don’t like affirmative action, and you don’t understand the reasoning.  we’ve heard it enough times now

    • Devils Advocate

      Jesus christ enough already!

    • Jwalker6

      Dude, the city’s current MBE/WME law was challenged in federal court but the city won that suit.

  • Anonymous

    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 (as the city of Baltimore has in the past).

  • Wilsonsmailbox

    I absolutely LOVE how you report the things in the city that actually matter such as budgetary spending and don’t just give a listing of who died in public housing the night before like the Sun does. Lets be honest, the vast majority of Baltimore are middle class people who care about how our money is being spent, and the only thing getting reported by the news in the city is crime – which rarely effects those of us that are not involved in the drug trade.

    I see it as a diversionary tactic used to keep the masses occupied while the politicians squander our tax dollars and political donors. The sad part is, it appears to be working because until now no one was reporting the waste and abuse…

    This is important news, and this is what Baltimore needs to know.

  • DocLindsey

    Wasn’t Pless Jones convicted in fed court  about 10 yrs ago for campaign finance violations? His wife, Lisa Harris Jones is is not well respected in Annapolis.  They both make a mockery of legit MBE’s.  Lisa is a lobbyist that has partnered with Sean Malone, an O’Malley former staffer and loyalist. Neither would ever challenge the the gov or a state agency on  contract awards that that inadequate MBE participation. Any MBE, not P&J, is screwed. 

  • Al Hathaway

    The Baltimore Brew is now my news source of choice. Continue the effective reporting of real news. 

  • Cory McCray

    Thanks for reporting on such an important issue for folks that can’t make it to every meeting!

  • I’m a contractor

    The percentage goals for individual contracts vary and are based on factors such as availability of MBE/WBE contractors certified for the intended work, fulfillment of the City’s overall goal, etc… If you check the contract documents, you will most assuredly find that Allied and Machado met the contract goals. Also, the contract documents CLEARLY state that minority firms MUST be certified at bid time in order to be counted towards the goal(s).

  • Timmah

    Pless just stepped into Ronnie Lipscomb’s shoes

  • Ktrueheart

    The new supermarket site is directly across the street from our local elementary school.  Children will be directly exposed to this demolition site and my community will not stand for unsafe or hazardous results which potentially put our children at risk.  I will personally be monitoring the demolition project and will program the local OSHA office number into my cell phone, just in case.

  • Baltimore’sOwn

    The Baltimore Brew is now my local online news source.  Where have you been all my life?!?!  I mean, wow! FACTS!!

    • Anonymous

      From BBrew: Thanks for the kind words; we’re delighted to serve as your local online news source.

      Other reader comments, complaints, tips, observations, poems, and shout-outs always welcomed here.

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