In a turnaround decision Tuesday, the Housing Authority of Joliet Board went from tabling a vote on a contract for a public project to awarding it to a minority-owned firm.
Officials voted 6-0 to hire Bowa and Skender Construction to team up as the general contractors to complete phase three work on the mixed-income housing development Liberty Meadow Estates. Board Secretary Roger Powell, Sr. was absent.
The Housing Authority of Joliet Board previously reviewed the contract at its monthly meeting held earlier this month. A motion was passed during that session to vote on it, and some voted ‘yes’, while some voted ‘no.’ At the time, three officials sought clarification and more background information on the matter. Board Chairwoman Maria Cottrell recommended that officials come back at a later date for a vote.
Several at the special meeting lauded the Housing Authority of Joliet Board for giving Bowa Construction, a minority-owned and operated construction firm, approval, saying this is history.
“Carlson [Construction] has done every single development that we’ve had so far, and I think it’s time to give somebody else an opportunity to do that,” Board Director Robert Hernandez said.
Bowa Construction, located in the Chicago area, has completed several projects in the northern Illinois region.
Carlson Construction of Joliet is also one of the contractors that submitted a proposal for Liberty Meadow Estates phase three, and they have completed a number of projects in Joliet over the years.
Mark Carlson of Carlson Construction told the board of his displeasure with their handling of the contractor selection process.
“An elected official came around and told me that he had put [someone] who was involved in discussion with one of the members of the selection committee” and that he intends “to do anything and everything in his power to ensure that we were not selected for this project, regardless of what our qualifications were,” he said.
Carlson referred to the awarding of the contract to Bowa Construction as being “virtually impossible” and said he believes the scoring system was unfair.
“Though we respect the decision of the board, we truly believe that this decision was made clearly in error,” he said.
Michael Simelton, chief executive officer for Housing Authority of Joliet, said after the meeting that the process of evaluating contracts is the same one used years ago when Carlson Construction was awarded opportunities to complete phase one and two construction for Liberty Meadow Estates and Water’s Edge. He said Bowa Construction was the highest rated firm this time around, based on evaluations.
James Foster, a member of the group Black Contractors of Will County and owner of New Frontier Electrical Construction, thanked the board and said he thinks Bowa Construction will do a fine job.
“We look forward to Liberty Meadows continuing to thrive and bring affordable housing to our community,” he said.
Foster has attended public meetings in the past working toward attaining greater inclusion of minority contractors on public projects.
Hernandez said the city of Joliet has not awarded a contract for a public project to a major minority-owned firm in the last 35 years.
“For me, [this] being a first is history, and I’m just glad the Housing Authority is the one that’s doing it,” Hernandez said.
The project, itself, has been a year in the making. Upon completion in the spring of 2019, this estimated $13 million subdivision expansion will feature the new construction of 42 units of single-family duplex homes at Briggs and Rosalind streets.