City considers changes to contracting rules


A. Lee Graham

Fort Worth could tighten the screws on some contractors seeking city work contracts as officials try to encourage more business for subcontractors. “It’s all an attempt to get our subcontractors more business opportunities,” said Robert Sturns, director of the city’s Housing and Economic Development Department. Speaking at the pre-council portion of the Nov. 5 regular City Council meeting, Sturns explained the problem: contractors bidding on paving, construction or other city contracts failing to notify minority or women-owned businesses of those work opportunities or failing to meet documentation deadlines. “This is strictly on subcontractor opportunities,” Sturns said.

Prompting the city to consider revising its business diversity enterprise ordinance were several bids submitted for 2012 city contracts. They were rejected because the low bidder was deemed unresponsive to meeting city subcontracting requirements or failing to provide documentation showing a “good faith effort” in notifying minority and-or women-owned businesses of those work opportunities. The existing ordinance could be revised in December as the city mulls changes and punitive options for nonresponsive bidders. To hear some council members tell it, changes can’t happen soon enough. “It doesn’t appear to be a very significant penalty for non-responsiveness,” said Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman of a penalty under consideration.

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“There needs to be a more [stringent] penalty than ‘oh my goodness, you go on the bad list,’” Zimmerman said. Currently, the city has no penalties for bidders not responding to city bidding requirements. If officials approve proposed changes, non-responsive bidders – those failing to meet city bidding requirements – would receive a warning. Those doing so for a second time would be removed from the city’s prequalification lists for a year. District 4 Councilman Danny Scarth asked what not appearing on that list would mean for companies. “Your ability to bid on contracts would be null and void,” Sturns said. “You could not bid for five years, in that case.” Other proposed changes to the city’s ordinance would allow contractors two working days after the bid date to submit business diversity enterprise documents. That’s compared to the current requirement of five working days. If the low bidder is deemed non-responsive, then the second and third low bidders would be contacted the given two working days to submit. State and local governments are required to validate what’s considered a statistically significant underutilization of minority- and-or women-owned businesses before creating a program serving their needs.