No Greensboro City Council meeting is complete without Councilmember Sharon Hightower complaining about the Minority/Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) program.

Hightower has repeatedly stated that the MWBE goals should be treated as quotas, despite the fact that having quotas is a violation of federal law.  She also generally complains that the goals are too low, and even when contractors exceed the goals Hightower states they should use more minority subcontractors.

But at the meeting on Tuesday, March 21, Hightower brought up an entirely new complaint about the MWBE program.

Hightower expressed concern about change order of $3.2 million for a contract with Cajenn Construction and Rehabilitation Services Inc. for sanitary sewer and water line rehabilitation.

According to the agenda, 20 percent of the change order was to cover the cost of “unforeseen conditions,” which included rock and unsuitable soil discovered while rehabilitating the water system along Sunset Drive.  And 50 percent was to cover the cost of altering the method used to replace the line.  The remaining 30 percent was for sewer rehabilitation work in the Pisgah Church Road area.

Hightower said she was concerned about the contingency money in the contract and said, “there are no goals put on that money.”

Water Resources Director Mike Borchers explained that the contingency money would remain in contingency and that the additional funding being requested was to pay the costs associated with the change order.

Hightower said, “So when you look at goal setting, contingency has no goals.”

Borchers agreed that the money set aside for contingencies did not have any goals and explained to Hightower that if the contingency money was not spent it went back into the water resources enterprise fund.

Hightower did not explain how she expected goals to be set for a contingency fund when neither the contractor nor the city has any idea how that money will be spent when the project is bid.  MWBE goals that are set for each contract are based on a number of factors including the availability of MWBE contractors to perform a particular job.