Loose Lips

City to Contractors: Come Make Some Money!

If you're looking for a career change, might LL suggest going into construction? Per the Post today: "Employment levels for construction workers in the District reached a 22-year high in August," while the construction industry is struggling in much of the rest of the country.

"We are the hottest city in America," Mayor Vince Gray told a room full of contractors last week.

Much of the city's construction boom is being fueled by District government, especially the $1.5 billion planned in school construction over the next six years. On Friday, Gray helped unveil the design for a new $120 million Ballou High School Friday. (See the video above).

The city should announce its pick for a prime contractor for Ballou either this week or next, according a spokesman for the Department of General Services. The contract will mark the unofficial kick off of fiscal 2013 city construction spending, which is budgeted at about $600 million in contracts DGS alone will award in fiscal 2013. Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Roosevelt High School are set for major renovations totaling about $180 million in construction work; the contract for a new recreation center at Barry Farm is $20 million; and there's nearly $40 million planned in work at several of the city's fire stations.

Last Tuesday, DGS had a summit for contractors to advise them on how they could get in on the spending. Will Mangrum, a private consultant who makes up part of the DGS's mostly privatized procurement system, said that while the city has a "core" group of contractors it has used on past projects, there's so much city construction planned that there's plenty of opportunity for all.

"If you get done and you get it done quickly, on time and on budget, you know what awaits? Another opportunity with the District of Columbia" says Gray. "And if you don't get it done on time and on budget you know what awaits? A referral to Maryland."

But not everyone is feeling the love. Some African-American contractors feel that they are being excluded from the party, says Cardell Shelton, a general contractor and president of the D.C. Contractor's Guild.

"There are too many of us being missed," says Shelton, who organized a meeting of his own Saturday for contractors to talk about how to increase their share of city construction work. One solution: more political involvement.

"If we press upon them I think they'll open doors a little better," Shelton says of the city's pols.

  • Real talk

    "Will Mangrum, a private consultant who makes up part of the DGS's mostly privatized procurement system, said that while the city has a "core" group of contractors it has used on past projects.."

    LOL this job is already earmarked for one of those shady "joint venture" contractors - wait and see

  • Ward5Dude

    Of course it is. I guess Mr. Shelton is starting to understand the pay to play mentality in the district

  • Bebop

    Cardell Shelton? Seriously? That guy is a foil-helmet kind of nutjob.

  • Anita

    hmmm...does this mean that the shadow CBE program is ove and real qualified DC DSLBD certified contractors will finally get a chance to do the contracts --- or just we should all know of the availability and the usual fraudulent activities will continue blatantly?

  • RE: Anita


    I think the statement that I quoted above pretty much proves who is still gonna get the projects.

    Also add in the slap in the face of "if you finish on time and on budget you'll get more work"... considering these projects barely finish on time, and majority of the time they finish on time due to significant change order increases to the contract because Lew's idea of getting the job done right means to throw money at it to get it done.

    These consultants won't negotiate changes with the city's interests in mind - they receive sales bonuses at the end of the project for change orders and profit margins they make.

    It's all one big circle jerk -

  • Village voices

    I know that the Mayor knows that all JV firms are on target to be audited and their shenigans bared...There will be some raids and then arrests, just like the CM's before, who helped create most o these JV's..LOL History repeats itself!!

  • Seriously Cardell?

    Wow Alan, great piece. And you quoted Cardell.
    You do any investigation about what work Cardell actually does, or who the members of his organization are?
    That's going to be an interesting piece for us all to read. Ask Cardell who's on his Board, or who his members are. Or, maybe you can start out by asking Cardell how he did when he was given the block work on the stair towers at the MCI Center?
    It might help if he could see the connection between successfully completing the work that he's given and winning more work.

  • D. Isgusted

    Really! I agree that schools need to be renovated. Here is the thing. DC will build a new 120M building, but not once do they think about year to year maintainace cost which probaly runs well into the $100K that will be overlooked. I think should be putting our resources into early childhood development, so the youth can take full advantage of a facility like they are proposing.

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