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Demolition king to tear down Howard Park eyesore

Pless Jones uses a winning formula for minority and women-owned subcontractors.

Above: Pless Jones (left) applauds Mayor Rawlings-Blake at the Maryland Minority Contractors Association banquet in July.

City Hall’s favorite demolition contractor, Pless B. Jones, won another plum award at yesterday’s Board of Estimates meeting, this time to raze the long-vacant Super Pride grocery store in Howard Park.

As was the case last week, Jones satisfied the city’s requirements for using minority- and women-owned subcontractors by hiring his son’s firm and a company that is operated from his corporate address.

The same lineup of RBJ Contracting and Cleo Enterprises helped Jones’ P&J Contracting Co. win a contract last week that was 74% higher than a competing bid. The Board of Estimates rejected the lower bid because it did not meet minority requirements.

Yesterday’s $428,300 teardown is part of a plan to bring a ShopRite store to the Liberty Heights corridor, a so-called “food desert” since Super Pride closed its doors in 1999.

The former Super Pride building (background) will be torn down by the Pless Jones group on the 4600 block of Liberty Heights Ave. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The former Super Pride building (background) will be torn down by Pless Jones on the 4600 block of Liberty Heights Ave. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Community activist Kim Trueheart, who attended yesterday’s meeting, applauded the grocery store project, but said she hoped Jones’ demolition “won’t resemble Durham Street,” referring to citizen complaints about the rubble left behind at another P&J site in the city.

The demolition company has received more than $20 million in awards from the city since 2005, including for the leveling of the Uplands Apartment complex and emergency and planned demolition of more than 300 scattered houses for the housing department. Its biggest ongoing project has been the razing of more than 600 houses for the biopark development project in East Baltimore.

Pless Jones has been a strong political backer of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, contributing $8,000 personally and through his demolition company, and serving on the host committee of her re-election fundraiser at the Hippodrome Theatre.

The mayor, meanwhile, has been a champion of Jones’ trade association, the Maryland Minority Contractors Association. She spoke at MMCA’s “summer soiree and awards banquet” at Martins West in July.

The demolition contract was unanimously approved by the board, which includes Rawlings-Blake, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who was represented yesterday by City Council Vice President Edward Reisinger.

Other Contracts Approved by Board

In other action, the board approved the following items:

$1,085,240 to Allied Contractors Inc. for pedestrian lighting in the Hunting Ridge, Ten Hills and Franklintown neighborhoods of West Baltimore.

A competitor, Civic Construction, bid nearly $100,000 less for the contract ($989,000), but was rejected when bids were opened because its subcontractor, Oelmann Electric, was not certified as a minority contractor.

Oelmann is now certified, attorney J. Mitchell Kearney told the board, and Civic should receive the award. The board rejected his argument, saying it was the contractor’s “responsibility to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed,” in the words of Ed Reisinger.

(By the way, there’s only 19% minority-women representation in the Allied bid, far below the city’s goal of 37%.)

$880,400 again to Allied Contractors for sidewalk improvements at Union Square Park and Latrobe Park Athletic Court. The approval papers note that minority participant, Mendocino General Contractors, is not in “good standing” with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. But the board allowed Allied Contractors to substitute another minority contractor if Mendocino fails to satisfy state officials.

$2,231,393 to Patton Harris Rust & Associates and Hazen Sawyer to act as consultants on the Deer Creek Pumping Station for the bureau of water and wastewater. The consultants will handle on-site inspections, approval of equipment, final reviews of contract change orders and claims, and advisory services to the construction management division.

• $900,000 to Location Age LLC for “geographic information systems” for various city agencies. This is a non-bid renewal of a contract awarded in May 2007. The latest increase will make the total award worth $4.45 million.

$750,000 to Greenman-Pedersen for “on-call” engineering design services for the Department of Recreation and Parks. The three-year contract will include consulting for city parks and rec centers.

• $733,791 to Machado Construction Co. for “citywide sidewalk rehabilitation.” Machado had only 27% minority-women’s participation, but was nevertheless found in compliance by the city’s Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office (MWBOO).

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