Partial government shutdown sidelines HUD plans to award demolition contract in Cairo

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CAIRO — Two 1940s-era public housing complexes are slated to be torn down this spring, but the ongoing partial federal shutdown will delay the selection of a general contractor to oversee the multimillion-dollar project in Cairo.

The deadline for general contractors to submit sealed bids to the Alexander County Housing Authority has been extended from 2 p.m. Friday to the same time on Feb. 21.

The project’s architect, Herrin-based Eggemeyer Associates Architects Inc., announced the new deadline on Wednesday in an addendum to the bid instructions posted on its website.

That deadline could be extended again if Congress and the president fail to reach an agreement to reopen the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and eight other federal departments by that date.

HUD has been managing the housing authority in receivership since February 2016. In 2017, HUD announced plans to help about 185 families move from Elmwood and McBride because they were no longer safe, and HUD said it did not have funds to fix the buildings.

In September, HUD announced that the ACHA, under its control, would receive $6 million to tear them down and return the land to park-like conditions. Federal housing officials held a pre-bid meeting last week, during which they provided a tour of the job site to about 40 general contractors from across the broader region and answered questions from potential bidders about the work.
The bid documents emphasize that the winning contractor is expected to make substantial efforts to subcontract with minority-owned businesses. The work is to be completed within six months of the contract’s start date.

“Our demolition process will continue up to the award, which will not be made until government reopens so we will have all-hands on board and we will not run afoul of the Antideficiency Act,” HUD spokesman Jereon Brown said in a statement via email. The act referenced requires Congress to appropriate federal funds prior to agencies expending or obligated them.

The housing authority’s other routine operations can continue uninterrupted in Cairo, HUD officials said. “We don’t believe this will last this long, but we’ve budgeted so that we can make sure we are able to cover our costs at least for the next four months,” Kimberly Wize, a senior HUD official, said at Wednesday’s monthly Alexander County Housing Authority board meeting. Wize, who serves as an ACHA board member on the receivership team, said that employees and other contractors for jobs previously awarded will continue to be paid, such as for renovation work of the two high-rise buildings on the riverfront.

She congratulated the HUD team assigned to Cairo, particularly Towanda Macon, who has served as executive director for nearly three years, for moving the local agency from the brink of bankruptcy onto solid financial footing.

“There wasn’t always a time when the housing authority could make timely payments. There wasn’t always a time when the housing authority had a good reputation with its vendors. Albeit for Towanda, I’m not sure that day would be here today,” Wize said.

MOLLY PARKER The Southern

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