Councilman: Stop work on county complex until more diversity present

artist's rendering

Artist's rendering of the new Aiken County complex.

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Aug. 16, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Aiken County's new government complex is taking shape along University Parkway. Construction on the roughly $38 million project should wrap up early next year.

However, Aiken County Councilman Willar Hightower says work should temporarily stop.

"Diversity is just not happening," he tells News 12.

Hightower says black-owned businesses have only been subcontracted for about $29,811 worth of work out of the $23,610,953 spent so far. That means businesses owned by blacks are doing only 0.13% of the work.

"I know of two contractors who have tried very hard to be on the list for the awards, and they were not given anything," says Hightower, who wants the issue on next week's County Council agenda. "I'm really concerned. I'm just looking for a fair chance. That's all. I'm not looking, you know, for anything extraordinary, but we have to do something different."

He's instructed the county to issue builder KBR a 'Stop Work Order' until the problem is fixed.

"I asked for that until we can get a clear path as to how we're going to make diversity a reality," explains Hightower.

To be fair, documents News 12 obtained show that other minority groups have been subcontracted. According to the KBR document, 7.62% of the work ($1,846,059) was awarded to female-owned subcontractors and 1.61% of the work ($380,450) was awarded to Hispanic-owned subcontractors.

But Hightower still feels diversity could be better.

"That's unacceptable, absolutely," says Hightower. "I think anyone would agree that that's just not fair."

County Administrator Clay Killian says the issue will appear on the agenda for Tuesday night's meeting. However, Killian says builder KBR has surpassed its goal of subcontracting 7% of the work from minorities and female owners.

However, Hightower feels 0.13% of that 7% is not enough for African-Americans.

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