Vare Recreation Center exterior

Posts hold up the walls of George A. Vare Recreation Building. The recreation center in South Philadelphia is slated to receive funding for repairs through Rebuild. — TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

City officials say they have been meeting some of their goals in rewarding contracts for Rebuild projects to minority- and women-owned businesses, but are falling short on meeting similar goals for citywide projects.

Minority-, women- and disabled-owned enterprises collectively have received 33.9 percent of all city contracts through the second quarter of fiscal year 2019, falling short of the administration’s 35 percent goal, said Iola Harper, deputy commerce director for the Office of Economic Opportunity, during budget hearings this week.

Meanwhile, eight professional service contracts tied to Rebuild totaling $4.2 million that have been executed so far were meeting diversity goals. Minority-owned businesses will receive 27 percent of the funding, and women-owned businesses will receive 24 percent, according to Rebuild Executive Director Nicole Westerman. The administration’s goal for Rebuild is to give 25 to 30 percent of funding to minority-owned businesses and 15 to 20 percent to women-owned businesses.

In addition, there have been four construction contracts finalized for Rebuild totaling $1.5 million, of which 33 percent will go to minorities and 37 percent to women — above the administration’s goals, Westerman said.

However, how many minorities and women were getting construction jobs remains unknown. David Gould, a spokesman for Rebuild, said the data were not available. These diversity goals are more ambitious, with 45 percent going to minorities — 27 percent of which to African Americans — and 5 percent to women.

Westerman said it was “early days” for the years-long project, but added that the administration is committed to meeting its diversity goals.

“We have a lot of efforts underway that make us feel confident about hitting those numbers,” she said Tuesday.

Mayor Jim Kenney pitched Rebuild soon after he took office in 2016. Diversity requirements for Rebuild were hotly debated between City Council, the administration and the trade unions before the legislation was approved in 2017.

In an interview this week, Council President Darrell Clarke said he was skeptical about the administration’s ability to meet those diversity goals.

“I’m not confident until I see it. That’s the goal and we hope to reach that goal,” said Clarke, a Democrat in the 5th District seeking re-election.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass, a Democrat in the 8th District seeking re-election, said that Philadelphia has a history of cutting out minorities and women from city contracts.

“I haven’t had a chance to really dive into the numbers since they’re not yet public,” Bass said, “but I think that this city is notorious for having a problem with ensuring that women and, specifically, people of color have opportunities to do business with the city. It has been an ongoing problem, but I’m hopeful that the numbers for Rebuild will show a different side of the story.”

Westerman said that networking events and the city’s Emerging Vendor Program, which allows small businesses to compete for Rebuild projects while they complete the certification process, will help more minority- and women-owned businesses bid for contracts.

Many of the Rebuild projects are smaller in scale, Harper said, which will benefit minority-owned businesses and help the city meet its goals.

“There are many, many more minority-owned businesses that are smaller and able to handle smaller projects than there are minority-owned businesses that can handle large projects,” she said.

Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for Clarke, said in an email that Clarke will monitor the administration’s data regarding Rebuild and expected Kenney to impose sanctions on contractors who fail to meet diversity goals.

The $500 million effort to renovate recreation centers, playgrounds, libraries and other public spaces is funded primarily through the city’s 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages.

The city has budgeted nearly $100 million this year for Rebuild projects.

The city recently awarded the Beech Interplex a $12 million grant to renovate the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center and playground, and IMPACT Services a $1.8 million grant to improve Heitzman Recreation Center.

The diversity of the contracting teams for the nonprofits Beech Interplex and IMPACT Services was a key consideration in the city’s selection process, according to city officials. However, nonprofit spending does not count toward Rebuild’s diversity goals. These goals are only based on for-profit spending.

Two of the completed professional service contracts — worth a combined $1 million — were for renovation projects administered by Beech and IMPACT Services.

The other six contracts were for consulting services through the city’s Rebuild office.

Work at more than 20 sites related to Rebuild is scheduled to start this spring.

Later this month, city officials also will begin an effort to engage the community to discuss improvements at Miles Mack park in the Mantua neighborhood.

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