Even with $135 million in bonds and changing the compensation system for city employees on the agenda for the Tuesday, July 20 City Council meeting, the item that was discussed the most by the Greensboro City Council was the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise percentages for one $625,000 paving contract.

Councilmember Sharon Hightower vigorously objected to the sidewalk paving contract with Atlantic Contracting Company, where the MWBE goals had been combined.  Usually for contracts there are separate Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) goals.

For this contract there was only a MWBE goal and Hightower objected.

Assistant City Manager Kim Sowell explained that the subcontracting opportunities in the bid were insufficient to have separate goals for MBE and WBE.

Sowell said that because of the lack of opportunity to divide the subcontracting work into smaller pieces the MWBE Goal Setting Committee had decided to have a combined MWBE goal of 37 percent and that Atlantic Contracting Company had met that goal with 37.1 percent.

Hightower said, “I don’t accept that excuse.”

The problem that Hightower had with the contract was not actually combining the MWBE goals, but that a WBE, Crossroads Infrastructure Inc. was going to be doing the work.

Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I think sometimes we should listen to those that have expertise and consider the fact that the goal setting committee approved this and was in support of this.”

Councilmember Justin Outling opposed awarding the contract because limited subcontracting ability was not specifically defined.

Councilmember Goldie Wells noted that when this contract was pulled off the June agenda that no specific reason was given, so the staff didn’t know what questions were being asked about the contract.  She also said that if they put the contract out to rebid it, the MWBE percentage could come back lower.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan noted that the MWBE percentage was 37 percent, which was higher than many contracts.

Councilmember Yvonne Johnson made a motion to table the contract for a month and then withdrew her motion when Vaughan agreed to hold a work session on the MWBE program.

After the lengthy discussion, awarding the contract to Atlantic Contracting Company with 37 percent MWBE participation passed on a 7-2 vote with Hightower and Outling voting no.