Municipal hall

Hiring talks continue as Norristown approves final package of town hall renovations – timesherald

NORRISTOWN – The conversation about the need for diversity in hiring and construction practices surrounding the town hall’s ongoing renovations continued last week as Norristown City Council members cleared the bids for the last one. Six-digit payout of project contract awards.

“We keep talking about it… that we would like to see more minority businesses doing certain things in this city, and it looks like we continue to fail,” said Norristown City Council Chairman Derrick Perry.

Discussions to renovate the structure, located at 235 E. Airy St. in Norristown, initially began in 2016, but members of Norristown city council approved the project in 2019, according to city officials.

The project aims to update aging infrastructure and expand “the total area from 36,000 to 45,000 square feet,” according to city officials. Project organizers cited contractor costs that were higher than the original budget forecast in 2019.

Most recently, members of Norristown City Council unanimously agreed to allocate $ 470,600 for sprinkler and sanitation services. The municipality has a $ 381,200 agreement with Gordon H. Baver, Inc. of Pennsburg, Pa. For sprinkler services and a $ 89,400 agreement with Plymouth Environmental Co., Inc., of Norristown for sprinkler services. sanitation, according to the contract.

The sprinkler contract was renewed on Dec.9, 2020 because the initial offers were “considerably over budget,” officials said. According to the contract, six initial bids were submitted for the remediation contract, ranging from $ 89,400 to $ 297,600.

Earlier this month, city lawmakers approved $ 12 million contracts for construction, plumbing, mechanical and electrical work.

Norristown municipal vice-president Thomas Lepera had previously inquired about the participation of minorities in the process of hiring contractors and subcontractors.

City administrator Crandall Jones and project manager Jerry Gorski, of Gorski Engineering, both said they worked to build a relationship by joining the Philadelphia-based Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council.

To date, Jones has noted that the project’s existing contractors have businesses in Montgomery County as well as a business owned by disabled veterans. Subcontractors include a women’s business enterprise; six are based in Montgomery County and the other 10 use union labor.

However, several board members still expressed their concerns about the lack of involvement.

Specifically, Lepera criticized the administration’s “executive decision” which led to “hiring Gorski without bidding”.

“It’s the goal in Norristown not only to have construction workers, minority construction workers on site, but also in the leadership position,” said Lepera. “Construction management is the leading position, and we have hired a company that has 20 employees, I think he said, a 10% minority stake, which makes two workers. “

“So in the future how we do it in the future,” he continued, “we don’t have to change an order or anything, we could just make better decisions with our decisions. executives. “

Perry went further with the idea of ​​eventually introducing an ordinance making minority participation mandatory.

“President Perry, I hear what you’re saying, and we’ve made some progress in the past, so I want the lawyer to jump in on this, because I wouldn’t want the municipality to be sued in a way that of ordinance created, there could be some kind of discrimination, ”said City Councilor Sonya Sanders.

Lawyer Sean Kilkenny revealed that the local government had previously explored the idea of ​​carrying out a diversity study, but backed down due to the considerable expense associated with the business as he estimated it would cost “a few hundred dollars. thousands of dollars “.

Jones added that project bids are advertised through PennBid, a regional bid management program online, on social media platforms as well as in newspapers.

“They know how to access our deals because we put them in places where companies are looking for construction related projects,” Jones said. “So we’re going to continue to work with them and find as many ways as possible, but we’ve stepped up our game considerably in terms of disseminating information, giving people the opportunity, and as I say, these sub- contractors are being evaluated, they know that the goal of the council is to involve minority businesses, so we will definitely keep pushing.

“We appreciate it,” Perry replied.

This article has been updated to reflect the action of the board in approving the offers presented during the working session on January 16.