Savannah City Council discusses minority inclusion in arena contracts

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- The awarding of minority contracts was a hot topic today for Savannah City Council.

They approved two contracts relating to the construction of a new multi-million dollar arena, but one alderman was concerned about the inclusion of women and minorities.

City leaders took the next step in the completion of the new 165-million dollar arena.

One motion on the council’s agenda raised some questions about the city’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (DBE), which was put in place to ensure minority and women-owned businesses are part of the process.

“The subject verification process that is being used at this time must include a comprehensive review of both the prime contractor’s comments while ensuring that all subcontractors verifications are consistent,” said District 5 Alderwoman, Dr. Estella Shabazz.

The prime contractor, in this case, is a firm the city hired to work on the electrical operating system of the arena.

Interim City Manager, Pat Monahan said they’ve pledged 44 percent (DBE) participation, involving three businesses from Atlanta.

“One of the DBE’s decided to change from a joint venture partner to become a consultant,” said Monahan. “The prime contractor committed to 44 percent and will stick to that 44 percent even if the individual team members might have been shuffled.”

While the overall percentage is outlined in the arena contract, private companies can redistribute those percentages in whatever way they see fit.

“When you have these types of situations sometimes what companies have done and we’ve seen it in this community,” said District 1 Alderman, Van Johnson. “They come to the table with folks and then when they secure the contract they switch out on the folks,” said District 1 Alderman, Van Johnson.

Monahan ensured the quota would be met, but the city can’t dictate how.

“The city absolutely cannot be involved in the negotiations of partnerships in these companies or in these structures,” said Monahan. “Because otherwise, as someone said, that would be as though the city dictating which employees the city should use.”

The project manager for the arena said site work is already happening and they will be moving to foundation construction next month.

Council also approved a 400 to 500 space garage for arena parking. Construction is expected to be completed by December of 2021.

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