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Joliet panel weighs minority contracting rules

Joliet considers disparity study but first wants to see what it may cost

City staff will check out the costs of a study to determine whether new contracting rules could increase minority participation in city business.

The Joliet City Council Diversity and Human Relations Committee on Tuesday put off a decision on what to do next about the latest call for new contracting rules until it got a report on the costs of a disparity study.

Advocates for new rules are calling for the disparity study as a needed step on the path toward creating a minority participation ordinance in Joliet.

“We need hard-core facts, and we need to look at the extent of the disparity in the great city of Joliet,” Cornel Darden Jr., president of the African American Business Association of Joliet, told the committee.

The study would among other things examine the number of minority contractors in Joliet, the impact of city contracting rules on the amount of government business they get, and what changes may need to be made to increase minority business with the city.

It was unclear whether the three-member committee was willing to vote for the study.

Council member Terry Morris at one point suggested that the committee put out a request for proposals to solicit a firm to do the study and determine what it would cost.

“The study needs to be done for us to go to the next step,” Morris said.

Chairwoman Bettye Gavin described the committee as being “in early stages” and described the study as “an expensive piece.”

“I think we need more,” Gavin said.

City Manager David Hales suggested that staff make phone calls to “get a ballpark figure” on what a study would cost, noting that a formal request for proposals could take a couple of months. He said staff should be able to get the numbers they need in two to three weeks.

Local contractors Willie Sellers and James Foster, who have raised the issue of minority participation on city contracts in the past, called for the city to move forward on a new ordinance.

“This is probably the fourth, fifth time we’ve come to the city to talk about disparity, to talk about minority participation,” Sellers said, noting that the issue first came up during the late Mayor Art Schultz’s administration. “This thing just continues to go on and on.”

Sellers said he, too, supported a disparity study.

Sellers and Foster are among members of the Black Contractors of Will County who raised the issue again in February while demonstrating near the site of the county courthouse construction project. They also have brought the issue to the Will County Board.

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