Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission said yesterday that the New York-based firm it has hired to renovate RFK Memorial Stadium will “aggressively pursue” employing local contractors to get the facility in playing shape for Opening Day in April, but a local business group isn’t convinced.

“There’s no question that’s going to happen,” Allen Y. Lew, chief executive officer of the sports commission, said of the hiring of local contractors.

Mr. Lew’s comments come amid growing concern among city officials and local contractors that Turner Construction Co., which is leading the renovation project, will not employ enough local or small businesses as required in its $18.4 million contract.

The contract calls for Turner to provide 35 percent of the project to local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises (LSDBEs) as certified by the D.C. Office of Local Business Development.

But the Capital Area Minority Contractors and Business Association says it is worried that Turner will meet that requirement by awarding much of the renovation work to District-based Tompkins Builders Inc., which Turner owns.

The sports commission, the independent city agency that operates RFK Stadium, is overseeing the renovation of the temporary home for the Washington Nationals baseball team until a new stadium is built in 2008.

According to city documents, the commission counted Tompkins among the contractors that Turner plans to use to meet the city’s LSDBE requirement.

Documents from the commission state that the Turner contract will include “significant LSDBE participation” to meet the 35 percent requirement, including work assigned to Tompkins.

The arrangement has been criticized among local contractors and city officials, who say the relationship between Tompkins and Turner violates the spirit of the city’s LSDBE program, which is designed to ensure work is given to those who are based and operate in the District.

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said in a memo Friday to sports commission officials that Turner should not be allowed to use Tompkins to satisfy the LSDBE requirement.

“Tompkins should not be included as part of the LSDBE requirements for RFK renovations. We’re off to a good start and this can become an unnecessary distraction which can easily be corrected and we should,” Mr. Bobb wrote.

Mr. Lew said he spoke with Turner officials yesterday, adding that the company said it plans to hire local contractors.

“I don’t see that as an issue,” Mr. Lew said of the relationship between Tompkins and Turner. “I don’t think that Turner’s plan was to rely on Tompkins.”

Mr. Lew said the design phase of the RFK contract includes 60 percent participation by certified LSDBE contractors. He said project officials have not awarded most of the bricks and mortar contracts yet.

“They’re going to aggressively pursue LSDBE contractors,” Mr. Lew said, referring to the construction contracts.

But Robert Green III, president of the Capital Area Minority Contractors and Business Association, said he has visited RFK several times during the past week and has noticed several Tompkins vehicles parked at the job site. He said he has not spotted any from Turner.

Mr. Green also said his group has not received a response from top sports commission officials after numerous requests to arrange a meeting to discuss concerns about the RFK contract.

Brian Woolfolk, a lobbyist and attorney for the contractors, said the RFK project doesn’t bode well for the much larger project of building a new stadium along the Anacostia River.

“This is the first big chunk of money being spent on the stadium, and this is their first decision, and they’re showing us what the nature of their dealings will be,” Mr. Woolfolk said.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and an outspoken critic of the stadium deal, said in a recent interview that he isn’t sure why the sports commission selected Turner over four other finalists.

“There was no explanation for why they received this contract,” he said.

Mr. Lew has said an independent panel of consultants recommended Turner based on the company’s experience and familiarity with the RFK facility.

Members of the panel included Robert Busler of WDG Architecture, Chris Dunlavey of Brailsford & Dunlavey, Philip Artin of McKissack & McKissack, Thomas Bridenbaugh of Leftwich & Ludaway, W. Andrew Jack of Covington & Burling, and two D.C. sports commission officials — Troy Scott and Scott Burrell.

Mr. Busler previously worked for Kansas City, Mo.-based HNTB Cos., a design and engineering firm. That company has been hired to work as a design consultant under the Turner-led RFK renovation contract.

McKissack & McKissack, where Mr. Artin works, is one of several family-owned companies operated by members of the McKissack family, which began operations in Nashville and has offices in the District and Philadelphia.

One of the family’s companies, the McKissack Group Inc., formed a joint venture with Turner in building Lincoln Financial Field, a football stadium in Philadelphia.

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