Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A New York-based construction company has been awarded a $18.4 million contract to get RFK Memorial Stadium into playing shape before the Washington Nationals’ April 14 home opener, but a D.C. business group says it is concerned that local companies won’t share in the award.

Turner Construction Co., a subsidiary of the Turner Corp., won the renovation project over four other finalists reviewed by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, officials said yesterday.

It was not clear yesterday whether Turner was the low bidder on the project to renovate RFK.

“It wasn’t a question of low bidder,” said Allen Y. Lew, chief executive officer of the commission, an independent city public agency that manages and operates RFK and promotes special events in the city. “It was a question of their experience and familiarity with the building.”

A key provision in the contract requires 35 percent project participation by local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises (LSDBEs) as certified by the D.C. Office of Local Business Development.

According to contract documents, four companies are participating in the project and qualify under the LSDBE program: Devrouax & Purnell, Delon Hampton & Associates, Capital City Associates and Tompkins Builders.

Robert Green III, president of the Capital Area Minority Contractors and Business Association, said yesterday that his members are concerned about close ties between Turner Construction and Tompkins Builders.

Turner purchased Tompkins out of bankruptcy from its former N.C.-based parent company, J.A. Jones Construction, last year for $10 million.

Mr. Green said Turner should not be allowed to count its subcontract with Tompkins as satisfying the requirement for 35 percent participation by local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises.

“Tompkins is a local business, but they’re owned by Turner, a New York firm,” said Mr. Green.

“My fear is that this job and the next stadium job are going to be moving so fast that these big companies are going to be able to say they can’t find any local businesses to do the work because they have get the work done fast,” Mr. Green said.

“These businesses come into town and set up these ivory storefronts, but they come from out of the woods,” he said.

Tompkins officials yesterday referred a call seeking comment to the Arlington office of Turner Construction. The Arlington office referred the call to Turner’s New York office, which in turn referred an inquiry to the local sports commission.

Mr. Lew said he did not think Turner planned to count its subcontract with Tompkins Builders toward the LSDBE requirement.

“There is a requirement for local, small, disadvantaged businesses,” Mr. Lew said. “I consider Tompkins part of Turner.”

Sports Commission Chairman Mark H. Touhey III said in a Dec. 3 letter to D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp that the project team headed by Turner Construction “includes significant LSDBE participation, including … Tompkins Builders.”

Mr. Lew said the commission is confident the renovation will be ready by the Washington Nationals’ home opener on April 14. He said the work involves a new field and upgrades to lighting, seating and locker rooms.

RFK will be the temporary home of the Nationals until 2008, when construction of a 41,000-seat stadium in Southeast along the Anacostia River is expected to be completed. The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved building the new stadium in a 7-6 vote.

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