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Authority hoping to draw bids from minorities
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A leap forward was achieved by the Liberty County Development Authority Thursday when CH2MHill conducted a day-long session aimed at getting vendors and contractors - particularly minorities and women - to participate in the $30 million water reclamation project in East Liberty.
The authority has struggled with its desire for minority participation in its projects, setting goals and then encountering difficulty and confusion in achieving them.
Some contractors have told the authority they have made good faith efforts to recruit minorities, but were unable to do so. Authority members have increasingly questioned the good faith in some cases and begun to require documentation of the good faith efforts.
State Rep. Al Williams, a member of the authority, has said emphatically, "If you don't want to find minorities, you won't find them."
Questions then arose about whether the documentation was verifiable, and who on the LCDA's small staff would do the verification.
These difficulties seemed to be swept away when CH2MHill was engaged to design and manage the treatment plant construction.
CH2MHill, one of the world's largest engineering and construction firms, has an established track record in reaching out to minorities and Thursday's meetings were part of their strategy.
Williams said, "This effort to make sure women and minorities are fully involved is not just for this project, it's for all future projects. We are building a database of the people we need to be in touch with."
Barry Campbell, CH2MHill project procurement manager, said, "We don't just give lip service to minority participation, we mean it."
He said in a single day more than 100 companies had been identified to receive bid packets and other information. The day's activities were open to all interested vendors and subcontractors.
Campbell said, "We won't go outside Liberty for anything unless we have to, I guarantee you that."
"Deal breakers," for doing business with CH2MHill are safety issues like a bad on-the-job accident rate or numerous OSHA violations. An employee drug program is required for subcontractors, but CH2MHill will provide a program to companies who don't have one and assist them in operating it.
The company had ready answers for many of the questions raised by potential subcontractors. The requirement for $5 million in insurance coverage would be a grave burden for small firms, but CH representatives said it could be reduced or waived for small contracts.
Authority member Graylan Quarterman had several questions about bonding requirements, a topic that has brought protests to the LCDA in the past.
The general contractor for the project will be required to post a substantial performance bond to guarantee completion. Bonding of subcontractors will be linked to the amount of work.
Fort Stewart was cited as an example several times. Contracts for less than $100,000 there can be awarded without any bond.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, a member of the LCDA, said, "CH2MHill is providing us with an opportunity that you don't find very often."
Williams, member of the Democratic minority in the General Assembly, closed the meeting by saying, "There has been a systemic effort over the last eight years to exclude minorities from contracts, but - thank God - there is help on the way in November!"
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