City council committee considers disparity study

A Montgomery city council committee is working to make sure minority and female-owned businesses are getting a fair shake when it comes to city contracts.

Council members say there have been complaints in the past that minority businesses aren't getting as many jobs.

A possible new study could create a policy the city would use to make sure all businesses get an equal shot.

"We have not settled on the idea," says District 3 City Councilman Tracy Larkin.

The city council disparity study committee is currently getting three years of information from every city department to see what types of businesses are winning contracts.

"Out of this process we will be able to develop a mechanism within city government that addresses the challenges of bringing those businesses that are underutilized and often forgotten into the process," adds Larkin.

The committee will then take that information and see if an outside firm is needed to work up a legal policy to ensure minority owned businesses are treated fairly.

So far, the committee has only compiled information from one division of the Public Works Department. When it comes to state regulated construction contracts, for example, 44 projects were contracted within the three year study period.

207 bids were submitted, but only 10 were from minority-owned businesses. And only one minority-owned business was awarded a contract.

"We think that we'll see a statistically clear pattern that minority owned businesses have received a very small percentage of the city's business," adds Larkin.

Mayor Todd Strange doesn't believe paying an outside firm is worth the roughly $100,000 dollars Larkin says it would cost.

"I think that a lot of the work that a disparity study would undertake is being done right now," says Strange.

Still one Montgomery business owner thinks it's a good idea.

"This disparity study, I believe, will bring some actual concrete numbers to actually see how the city is operating," says Michael Jones.

Larkin and Mayor Strange say some minority-owned companies just don't know how to become part of the process and that may be why they're under-represented when it comes to project bidding.

Their main goal is to make sure these companies know how to get on the bid list.

The committee plans to meet again on August 2nd before the regularly scheduled city council meeting.

That city council meeting has been moved to 4:00pm.

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