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Detroit chose demolition firms with history of disciplinary violations, report shows

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Detroit – Four out of seven companies that received home demolition bids on a $ 250 million bond issue have been disciplined by the city for demolition missteps in the past 18 months. This was the result of an investigation by the Detroit Ombudsman.

Another company, SC Environmental, moved its registered address from Lansing to Detroit earlier this month, Ombudsman Bruce Simpson said, questioning whether it is actually “based in the city”.

Simpson shared his findings with the city council from his research into the voter-approved proposal N as in the neighborhoods. The measure was approved by the majority of city voters in November with the aim of demolishing about 8,000 destroyed houses and renovating another 8,000.

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“I cannot support this program as it is currently being drawn up,” Simpson told the city council on Tuesday as council members discussed the approval of the contracts. “You (Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration) need to hold these contractors more accountable.”

Duggan announced in January that seven companies – five of which are black-owned – have been selected to tackle the first wave of 1,380 demolitions. The companies were selected from 180 competitive bids for $ 30 million worth of residential property contracts covered by the plan. Duggan pledged that more than 51% of Proposal N contracts would go to Detroit companies.

Council members voted 12 of the 23 demolition contracts Tuesday afternoon, blocking 4-4. Councilor Raquel Castaneda-Lopez was absent.

The Duggan administration has made conflicting statements about whether demolitions could take place without the full support of the city council.

Detroit’s Chief Procurement Officer Boysie Jackson told the city council last week that the contracts are linked based on the capacity of each company. If you are voted out, he said, “It affects all contracts.”

Detroit Demolition director LaJuan Counts said in a statement to The News that the department will immediately move forward on the 680 homes the council approved on Tuesday.

“We will be sending a notice to these contractors in the next two weeks and the neighbors in these areas should start work in the spring,” she said. “I plan to return to the city council with the other properties soon and in the meantime I will take the time necessary to answer all of your questions and concerns. We have residents next to dangerous vacant homes who have waited years for relief and We won’t stop until we bring that relief. “

City spokesman John Roach said Tuesday the administration had decided to focus on moving forward the contracts approved by the council instead of trying to award the rejected contracts to the next lower bidder, a process who might be made difficult by the capacity of a contractor to do the job.

The city had hoped to start dismantling in February and demolition in the spring, but the contracts were reviewed by the council for several weeks.

An uninhabited house in Hayes, Detroit, is about to be demolished in this file photo dated May 19, 2016.

Councilor Roy McCalister urged the government to grant the grace period to allow contractors to “come back in” with violations.

“We see them doing something and we turn around and give them (contracts),” McCalister said. “Please help me because I can’t understand that.”

Counts said the violations for one company, Detroit Next, were “operational, bad management” but there was “no malicious intent”.

Simpson noted that Detroit Next Inc. employees were ordered to cease operations on October 14, 2020 for illegally dumping “potential asbestos-containing material” from a property on Beniteau Street, and that state environmental agencies on November 9 Violated the criminal offenses. 2020.

The problems, wrote Simpson, were attributed to the workers hired for that day. Subsequently, he added, the company was allowed to bid and receive contracts on Tuesday that were scrutinized by the council.

Counts acknowledged that some of the other companies were also cited, but emphasized that there are a number of breaches of a basic disciplinary letter designed to warn a company that certain measures are “unacceptable”, up to and including deletion from the program.

“Violations of various contractors were imposed throughout the program,” she said. “It’s not just limited to that particular group.”

Jim Glavin, an official with the city’s contract and procurement office, said SC Environmental’s LARA registration serves as the resident agent’s address and “has nothing to do with certification or the company’s physical location.”

SC Environmental owner John Sears died last week, but city officials said the company is still ready to get the job done. Following Sears’ death, the company filed papers with the state to change the building permit and with the city to change the license to demolish it.

The filing changed the address listed from 701 E. South St. in Lansing to 1234 Washington Boulevard in Detroit, according to public records.

The Simpson recommended counts provide the city council with a breakdown of violations related to hazardous materials, work stoppages, suspensions, and “any other action by a contractor that could potentially harm our communities.”

Detroit has stepped up efforts to sign contracts with urban and minority companies under the bond proposal.

Boysie Jackson on Tuesday defended the government’s selection of companies, noting that all seven have pledged to hire Detroiters. All of them have over 51% workforce, one has 100% city workers, he said.

“We’re doing our best to make sure this program is as transparent as any other program we’ve ever run. We will continue to do so,” he said. “We allow anyone to see the books … we have nothing to hide.”

Quotes trigger debates about transparency

The council voted on all Proposal N funded contracts for SC Environmental, Juniors Jr and RDC Construction, as well as one of six contracts for Inner City. Detroit Next and Rickman company contracts approved. SC Environmental, Juniors Jr and Inner City could not be reached immediately on Tuesday. A representative from RDC Construction declined to comment.

Juniors Jr. was listed twice late last year for failing to enter data into the abandonment reporting system. The company received three more violations in January because “the demolitions were not completed on time,” the memo said.

Moss Company, according to the Counts memo, received a disciplinary letter last spring for failure to report the status of asbestos-related activity.

RDC Construction did not remove any asbestos-containing material from a site on October 25, 2019 and did not notify the state’s Ministry of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy of asbestos-related activities in March and April.A representative from RDC told The News Tuesday that the company had produced evidence of the alleged violations and has never been suspended. In any case, according to RDC, the violations were not justified.

Most of the companies selected for the first round of work turned to council members prior to voting, including the next Detroit President, Mark Green.

Green ignored his company’s past violations, instead emphasizing that he was “humble and grateful” to be selected for a role in the city’s demolition work.

“We know Detroiters have been disenfranchised for a very long time. We are Detroiters and we know our citizens need help. We are here to help, we are here to serve, and we are here for this mission to meet, “he said. “We’re just happy that we actually get the opportunity to give something back and to employ and educate our citizens.”

Roderick Rickman, CEO of Rickman Enterprises, said his company has its own training facility and equipment in Detroit and “we continue to hire Detroiters and develop Detroiters across the community in this program.”

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones wears protective gloves to conduct the business of the City Council during a regular session on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

The treaties had already sparked transparency concerns and an argument between Duggan and Council President Brenda Jones.

The city council had postponed a vote on the contracts due to objections from Jones, who argued that the city’s procurement office had not released numbers on the hiring and recruiting of residents.

Detroit Corporation attorney Lawrence Garcia denied Jones’ claims that no responses were given, noting that the issue was focused on efforts to create additional conditions after bids were made, which is not allowed.

Council members’ requests included asking the procurement office to post a destination business and employment link on their website, a Detroit hiring plan for all contractors who are not 51% or more Detroit based, and details of the Procurement Bureau Plans Educate Detroit businesses about tendering opportunities and recruit them for any services provided to businesses outside of Detroit.

Jones has long been a vocal critic of the city’s contracting process and has raised concerns about minority contractors being left out. It also declined to sign city-funded demolition contracts while the federal government investigated the demolition work in Detroit.

A handful of residents called on Tuesday and asked the council to approve the contracts.

“I’m grateful for the demolition in my neighborhood,” said resident Sherrie Smith. “We want Detroit residents to be trained to get jobs that will make a living.”

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Dusty Kennedy