- Valdosta, Ga. - Feb. 14, 2012 -
Some community activists in Valdosta say minority contractors are not getting a fair shake when new construction projects come into town.
John Robinson Senior points to projects like Valdosta's Martin Luther King Monument as an example of what he calls "minority exclusion". The monument cost over $1,000,000 to build and it livens up a predominantly minority community. But Robinson is upset that it is reported that no African-Americans worked on the project.
Robinson, whose son is a Valdosta minority contractor, tells Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg that Valdosta runs on a "Good Ole' Boy system" that only rewards the same predominantly Caucasian contractors time and time again.
"We want to be able to be included in the decision making in our own communities. There's nothing wrong with that," Robinson says.
Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson tells Gullberg that bidding on the contracts is open to anyone and the winner is simply the lowest bidder.
"The city welcomes multiple bidders; the more competition that's created generally [makes] the better price and that's our first and foremost obligation is to the taxpayers of the community," Hanson tells Gullberg.
He says there are stipulations to include minority workers, but the city can't tell a company to fire team members to accommodate those of another race.
The city is expecting plenty of new construction jobs, especially through the "Streetscape" program. Plenty has been done already to rebuild the Martin Luther King Corridor. There are new roads, sidewalks and the MLK monument.
Now the city wants to build up the North end of town to close the gap with Valdosta State University.
And with a new $15,000,000 overpass in the works to cover the train tracks on West Hill Avenue, Hanson says minority contractors will have just as much opportunity to bid on the project as anyone else.
The new West Hill Overpass is being funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Bidding will begin in the coming months.