Commissioners reexamine disparity study of city contracts with m - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Commissioners reexamine disparity study of city contracts with minorities

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For 35 years, Berry Smith Sanitation has been rolling around the streets in Richmond County, picking up garbage in several neighborhoods.

"After so many years you tend to know the people, and we fairly know them real well," said James Chance, route supervisor and assistant manager with Berry Smith Sanitation. "We get along with them real well."

Most of their business comes from their sub-contract with the city of Augusta, one of the few minority-owned businesses in partnership with the city.

Monday morning commissioners re-examined a study conducted to show inequality in the city's selection of contracts to minorities and women. The $500,000 study, conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, found the city was not awarding as many contracts to minorities and women.

"I wasn't really surprised when the study came back," Commissioner Marion Williams. "I mean, you get people complaining all the time, you hear people complaining, complaining, complaining, you need to listen to them."

The city's procurement department says that they are race and gender neutral, so there's no record of how many minority-owned businesses are in contract with the city. But after a 2009 disparity study, some commissioners say there needs to be more.

"I just want to make sure everybody is treated fair," said Commissioner Mary Davis. "If this helps small businesses be awarded contracts, just to make sure everything is being awarded equally, then that's our job."

At their next meeting commissioners will discuss conducting a fresh study, then equally award contracts to minority-owned, local businesses; like Berry Smith Sanitation, whose contract is set to expire in May.

"Nobody's in the business of trying to lose a job," Chance said. "I'm just hoping that we can maintain our job, and keep some jobs."

And employees say those jobs within the sanitation company could be saved if they're given "a fighting chance."

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