A Cary-based company has been hired to replace windows at the former Booker T. Washington High School campus, but work has been postponed for 16 weeks, a City of Rocky Mount spokesman said.
Riley Contracting successfully submitted the lowest and best bid at $221,600, interim city Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations Jessie Nunery told the Telegram on Aug. 26 in an email after requests from the municipality for documented information providing an update about the status of the project.
However, the project is on hold because of a delay in the arrival of materials, Nunery said.
“We will not be able to provide an estimated completion date until the materials arrive,” he said.
The estimated completion date had been Oct. 14, according to a request for proposals by the city dated April 27.
The Telegram on June 6, 2020, reported that the City Council’s discussions of what would soon become the fiscal year 2020-21 budget included an amendment to shift funding from a proposed major renovation project at the former National Guard armory, which is southwest of downtown, to add $250,000 to proposed spending on the former Booker T. Washington High campus, which is northeast of downtown.
According to documents requested of Nunery by the Telegram in a follow-up email on Aug. 26, four other companies sought the work at the former Booker T. Washington High campus and the bids of the five competitors were unsealed on May 27.
The Davis Company of Williamston submitted a bid of $226,440, Danco Builders of Rocky Mount submitted a bid of $227,588, the Brawley Company, no address listed, submitted a bid of $322,652 and L.A. Downey & Son of Durham submitted a bid of $350,653, the documents show.
The documents include a June 1 letter to a city purchasing official from San Bawi, of Raleigh-based Raymond Engineering, which is providing consultation on the project.
According to Bawi, Riley Contracting’s bid of $221,600 was $1,600 over the project budget. Because the amount was over the project budget, Raymond Engineering recommended the project budget be increased to cover both the $1,600 and construction-related contingencies, Bawi’s letter said.
Additionally, Bawi’s letter said the four other competitors’ bids contained irregularities.
The letter said the Brawley Company provided a minority business participation form showing less than 10 percent minority participation and did not provide an affidavit, Danco Builders provided a minority business participation form showing no minority participation and did not provide an affidavit, and the Davis Company provided an affidavit, but did not provide a minority business participation form.
Generally, such a form lists the names, addresses and phone numbers of minority businesses that will be participating as subcontractors, vendors, suppliers or providers of professional services in a project. Such a form defines minorities as Black, African American, Hispanic, American Indian, female or socially or economically disadvantaged individuals.
As another example of irregularities, Bawi’s letter said L.A. Downey & Son and the Davis Company did not provide a certificate in connection with the Iran Divestment Act. The law prohibits state agencies from investing in or contracting with people and companies engaged in certain investment activities in Iran.
Bawi’s letter also said the Brawley Company did not provide an affidavit making clear the business understands employers must use E-Verify. Generally, E-Verify is an internet-based system that compares information from a newly hired employee’s employment eligibility verification to work in the U.S. to records available to the federal Department of Homeland Security and the federal Social Security Administration to confirm employment eligibility.
During a June 4, 2020, work session about the then-proposed municipal budget for fiscal 2020-21, Councilman Andre Knight proposed scaling back funding to both stabilize the vacant former armory and complete a study about future redevelopment there.
Knight successfully called for instead proposing to take $250,000 of $525,000 for the former armory to help pay for work at the former Booker T. Washington High campus, which includes a community center and a recreation center.
Knight emphasized his belief that the buildings and grounds at the former high school need to be presentable and that the windows look quite bad. He also emphasized fixing up what is already in use in the community as opposed to going to an unoccupied building.
Additionally, Knight pointed out that the former Booker T. Washington High’s gymnasium had been the scene of a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in November 1962, which was the forerunner of King’s “I Have a Dream” August 1963 speech in Washington, D.C.
Knight also said proposed improvements to the campus had been in municipal improvement plans long ago, and a comprehensive master plan for municipal parks and recreation published in 2015 included a priority list of a dozen existing facilities or sites to be enhanced. Sixth on the list was renovating the Booker T. Washington Community Center at a cost of nearly $3.38 million.
The Telegram, citing North Carolina’s open records law, had since at least as far back as March 11 been requesting that the city provide documented information about the status of the project at the former Booker T. Washington High campus. The law specifically makes clear that all records made or received in connection with the transaction of public business are open to viewing.
The law also makes clear this applies to all types of local government agencies and all types of records, including paper and electronic records, recordings, films, videos and photographs.
The catch is that the law does not compel public officials to respond to requests for open records by specific times.