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Hispanics Upset By Review Of Contract
January 12, 1997


Sunday, January 12, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND A Redevelopment Agency contract is being closely scrutinized by City Council members who question breaks an architect received on insurance and terms they say could mean a hefty hike in the bottom line. 

But the council faces questions of its own from Hispanic leaders who wonder why members are taking so long to approve the contract for the Hispanic-owned firm. The architect, Ricardo Magana of Richmond, has also guaranteed the council he won't exceed the $220,000 price tag on the project. 

The city hired Magana to design shoreline projects in southern Richmond, and council members said they have no problem with the choice. 

The contract, however, is a different story. After Magana won the bid, city redevelopment officials lowered the amount of insurance required for the project from $1 million to $250,000. 

Council members poured over the contract at a meeting last week. They're expected to take up the issue again at their meeting on Tuesday.

Some council members said they were worried that may not have been fair to competing contractors. Councilman Tom Butt, a Point Richmond architect, said other firms may have stayed out of the bidding process because they didn't feel they could meet the insurance requirements. 

Redevelopment Agency officials said the city commonly allows minority firms to pay less insurance to allow them a better chance at winning city contracts. 

"This has been done in the past, particularly for targeted firms," said Dave Thompson, Richmond's redevelopment director. 

Council members also questioned language that appeared to allow Magana to receive payment even if he didn't complete the work. The firm is required to work 100 hours for the $220,000, but there's no stipulation that the project must be finished during that time. 

Butt and council members Nat Bates, Alex Evans and Donna Powers said they worried the firm would be able to bill the city for time beyond 100 hours to complete unfinished work. Contractors routinely add "amendments" to city construction bills for work outside the scope of a contract. 

"As I read the contract, he's paid to work a certain number of hours. He works those hours, and the contract is up," Evans said. 

Hispanic leaders want the process finished quickly. Alberto Rocha of the Federation of Employed Latino American Descendants and IMAGE de Vallejo, two Hispanic civil rights groups, said the contract is an opportunity for the council to give "a symbol of hope" to the Hispanic community.