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Inside City Hall: Baltimore’s fountain cleaners allowed to clean up their act

Board of Estimates cuts some slack on a contract that didn’t meet minority inclusion goals.

Above: The city’s old fountain for thirsty horses next to the Battle Monument.

It seems that fountain cleaners can catch a break from City Hall that’s not extended to other contractors.

Failure to meet the city’s minority inclusion rules was the reason given by the Board of Estimates for its recent rejection of low bidders on two contracts.

In one case, the contractor fell short of the 10% goal for women-owned businesses – and utterly failed to win the board’s sympathy during a protest hearing.

The same fate befell Civic Construction LLC whose minority subcontractor was not certified at the time of the bid opening as a minority enterprise by the state of Maryland.

The subcontractor was subsequently certified, but that wasn’t good enough for the spending panel led by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. As one city official put it, contractors are responsible “to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed” in city bids.

These two decisions cost taxpayers $242,240 – the difference between the low bids and the accepted bids.

Today, however, the board was in a more charitable mood.

It approved Contract B50001980, “Routine and Preventative Maintenance of City-Owned Fountains,” that not only fell short of the city’s goals for minority and women’s participation, but included a subcontractor “not in good standing” with the state.

The Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office guided the board in its decision. In its written analysis, MWBOO noted that the fountain cleaners “were found in non-compliance” of minority targets. Nevertheless, “This award is recommended on the condition that the awardees come into compliance within 10 days of the award.”

Compliance might prove to be difficult. A listed minority subcontractor, A.M. & Son Electric LLC, is in trouble with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. What’s more, the bid contract leaves blank the share of work to be performed by female-owned Fitch Dustdown Co. – an offense that has led to the board’s rejection of other bids.

MWBOO’s analysis indicates that the fountain cleaners were not particularly sensitive to the city’s minority goals, saying they “requested a waiver [of minority goals] but did not indicate good-faith effort to meet the goals.”

The contract totals $333,838. Slightly under $190,000 was awarded to Mid-Atlantic Fountain Design & Manufacturing (misidentified as Mid-Atlantic Foundation Design in the board’s agenda) and the rest to Field Enterprises LLC of Knoxville, Md.

In an interview today, MWBOO chief Shirley A. Williams said the contractors have 10 days to submit written documentation showing that the subcontractors are in compliance with state and city rules or substitute city-certified women and minority contractors in their place.

Upon receipt of that information, MWBOO will notify the Department of Purchasing that the contract is in compliance.

Consultants Awarded $6 Million

Two weeks ago, we wrote about the awarding of $8.7 million in consulting contracts, including $1.5 million for “on-call” consulting services for the hard-pressed Department of Recreation and Parks.

Today the city spending board approved another $6,035,688 to consultants, including $750,000 to Mahan Rykiel Associates to provide “on-call landscape architectural design services” for Recreation and Parks

Two firms – Rummel, Klepper & Kahn (RK&K) and A. Morton Thomas & Associates – received the lion’s share of the consulting awards. Each received $2 million for “on-call construction management services” for the city Department of Transportation through 2014.

Buchart Horn Inc. is set for another $1 million to advise the Department of General Services. (This is on top of $1 million awarded to Buchart Horn on March 9, 2011 by the board.) In an indication that this contract raised eyebrows, the board agenda said the audits department “noted the increase in the upset limit and the time extension and will review the task assignments” – as yet unspecified by General Services.

Finally, RK&K was awarded $143,074 and Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson $142,614 to provide consulting services for the bureau of water and wastewater.

Other Spending Items

In other action, the board approved:

$6.1 million to three companies to provide the city with salt for snow melting. Eastern Salt Co. received $5 million, with $1 million going to Cargill Inc. and $100,000 to International Salt Co.

$3 million to Marcon Engineering Services and General Ship Repair Corp. for the maintenance and repair of the city’s fire boats.

$1,070,000 to Tele-Tector of Maryland for the expansion of closed-circuit television (CCTV) at the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. Through non-bid extensions, Tele-Tector’s original $2.8 million contract with the city has increased to slightly under $5 million.

$723,999 to St. Vincent De Paul of Baltimore to operate an emergency shelter in West Baltimore with 75 beds for homeless women and children.

$388,032 to Associated Building Maintenance Co. for janitorial services for the Police Department and Department of General Services.

$330,724 to Potts & Callahan to demolish the long-vacant Ainsworth Paint Factory at Edison Highway and Biddle Street.

$56,676 to KC Company for the “broken window replacements project” at the Howard Peter Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park.

Just two weeks ago, the board transferred $28,000 from general funds to replace 15 broken windows at the conservatory.

The spending board is composed of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, City Solicitor George Nilson and Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx.

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