|By Kevin Leininger, The News-Sentinel,
Fort Wayne, Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 30, 2009--According to its contract with the city, White Lodging Services must make a "good faith effort" to use local contractors during construction of the 250-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, which began this month as part of the downtown Harrison Square project.
But city officials have received complaints that it's not happening -- and are investigating.
Greg Leatherman, deputy director of redevelopment, said he has asked the Merrillville-based developer for a detailed breakdown of contracts awarded to date, and expects the company to meet its commitment to make every effort to meet its legal obligation to "utilize qualified and competitive local contractors and trade organizations."
For now, though, Leatherman said much of the work already under way appears to have been awarded to local companies, even though the general contractor, Shiel Sexton, is based in Indianapolis.
Leatherman said he expects to receive White's report on contractors next week.
Representatives of Shiel Sexton, White Lodging and local labor organizations were unavailable for comment Friday. But Lori Harvey, executive director of the Building Contractors Association of Northeast Indiana, said her organization met with Mayor Tom Henry on Friday to address concerns that local contractors have not received their share of the work. "We were pleased with the mayor's response," she said.
"The contract (between White and the city) doesn't say contracts should go to the 'lowest' bidder. I would hope that, if there's only a $2,000 or $3,000 difference, an Allen County contractor would get preference," she said.
Allen County Commissioner Bill Brown, who mentioned local contractors' concerns at Friday's weekly public meeting, said he would be surprised if work-hungry local contractors aren't submitting competitive bids "based on the numbers we've been getting lately."
On Friday, for example, the commissioners approved a $1.34 million contract with Geiger Excavating of Fort Wayne to demolish Memorial Stadium and repave the area -- about $1 million less than originally estimated.
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