Records: Minority contracting on pace to meet bridges project go - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Records: Minority contracting on pace to meet bridges project goals

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The firms building new Ohio River bridges expect to meet goals set by Kentucky and Indiana for hiring women- and minority-owned businesses, according to reports filed with both states.

As of September, WV Construction had awarded $56.2 million to companies certified as “disadvantaged business enterprises,” or DBEs, for work on the eastern bridge. That amounts to about 7.4 percent of its spending on subcontracts, just below a goal of 9.2 percent.

Chicago-based Walsh Construction had awarded $72.4 million in subcontracts for construction-related activities downtown during the same period – slightly more than its target of 8.2 percent.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe declined to comment in detail on Walsh's figures, but he did say in an email that “there has been a clear understanding among all the parties that the goal is to be met.”

WV Construction – a joint venture between Walsh and France-based Vinci Construction – is negotiating the rest of its contracts, said Will Wingfield, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Wingfield said the state and its consultants expect WV Construction to meet or exceed its goals. “In addition, we are providing oversight to ensure the DBE firms already under contract are performing a commercially useful function for the project,” he said in an email.

The $2.3 billion project includes two bridges – a new span that will carry northbound Interstate 65 next to the Kennedy Bridge, which will become southbound-only, and an upriver bridge at Utica, Ind. – and a reconfigured Spaghetti Junction interchange.

Kentucky is responsible for the downtown work, while Indiana is in charge of the eastern section.

There are no goals for hiring local subcontractors among the DBE companies involved in the project.

A WDRB News analysis of reports obtained under both states' public records laws found that minority- and female-owned businesses based in the Louisville metropolitan area have received contracts totaling nearly $57 million, or about 43 percent of all DBE spending.

Overall, nearly 92 percent of all DBE contracts have been awarded to Indiana or Kentucky companies.

The analysis also shows that Louisville-based Javier Steel has received contracts worth $21.9 million. That accounts for nearly 80 percent of all funds spent on local DBE companies working on the downtown crossing.

On the eastern crossing, Messier & Associates of Louisville has received about $14 million in contracts, or slightly less than half the money awarded to local DBEs.

Al Taylor, president of United American Supply in Nicholasville, Ky., was among those skeptical of the minority-contracting process prior to construction. His company landed a $5,000 contract to provide fire protection and other safety equipment on the downtown crossing.

“I can rightly say I was given two opportunities and I gave them quotes at those two times,” Taylor said, adding that “I got orders.”

Kentucky and Indiana oversee the DBE certification of firms. Earlier this year, a Louisville company sued the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in federal court, alleging state officials refused to re-certify it based on “racial animus toward African Americans.”

The Cabinet has argued in court filings that the company “failed to adequately exhaust available administrative remedies” and waited too long to file its lawsuit. It also denied many of the allegations.

That lawsuit, filed by Mathis & Sons and its owner, Maureen Mathis, is pending in U.S. District Court in Louisville.

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