WATCH THE KY3 NEWS @ 10 REPORT HERE
A Springfield transportation project has been delayed because local contractors can't find enough minorities to fulfill a federal mandate.
It's a controversial federal requirement that is holding up work on a new regional transportation center and frustrating local contractors.
According to federal law, women or ethnic minority contractors must make up 10 percent of any project that involves federal dollars. The minority businesses are referred to as "Disadvantaged Business Enterprises," or DBE's -- and the provision is creating some problems for a new $2.2 million dollar City of Springfield/Missouri Department of Transportation Management Center slated to be build on West Chestnut Expressway. (Read more about DBE's HERE).
But some contractors view this mandate as an affirmative action program that just isn't practical in Springfield.
Right now, engineers use a cramped space in downtown Springfield to monitor roadways and coordinate signals to keep traffic flowing. Officials want to build a bigger, upgraded facility. But the initial round of bids to perform the work have been rejected.
"Of the ten bidders, none of them were able to meet that goal, so we're going to go out and solicit for another set of bids," said Kirk Juranas, District Engineer for MoDOT.
Wehr Construction won the initial bid that was thrown out. The company declined comment on the matter because it plans to re-bid for the contract and did not want to offend the city or MoDOT.
Dewitt & Associates was one of the low bid contractors for the project, which includes paving, electrical work and supplying materials.
President Emeritus Jerry Hackleman said it's difficult to find minority subcontractors to make up even five percent of the work, let alone ten percent.
"In order to get some of the firms that we would need to meet their 10 percent goal, we're going to have to go to St. Louis and Kansas City, which is taking away work from local contractors," explained Hackleman.
"I think there's minority contractors available within our state and neighboring states that certainly would be happy to bid on this work if pursued," said Juranas.
But most aren't in the surrounding Springfield metro area.
"I can't just focus on Springfield," said Juranas. "I have to focus on a whole contracting community."
In fact, Hackleman said of the list of around 1300 statewide approved minority contractors, just a little more than a dozen are within 100 miles of Springfield.
"There was one minority electrician that placed a bid, but he was about $40,000 higher," said Hackleman, who noted that pursuing minority contractors could push up the overall cost of the project.
He said the provision makes it harder to compete in a hyper-competitive construction market that rewards the lowest bid with the work.
Continue reading this story at KY3.com.