The Greensboro City Council once again, on Tuesday, July 21, got hung up in a long discussion about the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise (MWBE) program regarding an item on the consent agenda.

Consent agenda items are supposed to be noncontroversial housekeeping-type items that require no discussion. All the items on the consent agenda are supposed to be passed with one vote.

According to City Council policy, if a councilmember wants to discuss an item on the consent agenda, that item is to be removed from the agenda and placed on the business agenda for the next meeting. But there is an unwritten corollary to that rule that allows Councilmember Sharon Hightower to ask questions and discuss any item on the consent agenda for as long as she wants.

The City Council ended up having a long discussion on Item 8, an amendment to a contract to design the rehabilitation for the Murrow Boulevard Bridge over Church Street for the Downtown Greenway.

Hightower’s issue was that the MWBE percentages did not meet with her standards, despite the fact that the city’s MWBE office approved the contract. It is the same issue she has raised on many other contracts.

The memo from the Greensboro MWBE office states, “This project was originally financed with NC DOT state funds; therefore the project adhered to the NC DOT MBE/WBE requirements and there were no goals set for the project.”

It was explained once again to Hightower by City Manager David Parrish and City Attorney Chuck Watts that this was a federally funded project with the federal money coming through the state, so state minority business program took precedence.

Councilmember Justin Outling asked how long rejecting the contract would likely hold up the project and noted, “This project is to complete a portion of the Downtown Greenway in the eastern portion of the city.”

Parrish said if the vote was delayed until the next meeting it would be a three-week delay.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan added that if the contract were rejected and had to be rebid, the delay could be much longer.

Councilmembers Michelle Kennedy and Yvonne Johnson both spoke in favor of holding the state to the city’s MWBE standards.

Councilmember Goldie Wells said, “I don’t want you folks to vote it down because I don’t want this part of the Greenway not finished.”

Watts said he was almost certain that the city had to accept the state standards, but added that he would investigate it further.

The vote to approve the contract amendment was 6-3 with Hightower, Kennedy and Johnson voting no.

The Downtown Greenway is an extra wide sidewalk four miles long that when complete will encircle the downtown. The Downtown Greenway project was started in 2001.