The death of a good idea

Full disclosure: my firm, The Next Wave, has worked with James Kent over the last 10 years, both with Kent Development and then with the Architectural Reuse Company. They are a South Park neighborhood-based business.

The idea was noble. The company was green, compassionate, and the service was needed. There is no lack of work. But, today, James told me that the Architectural Reuse Company had closed its doors. He had laid off his entire staff earlier in the week. His failure? He trusted the City of Dayton to do the right thing.

There is a 29 year backlog of houses to demolish in the City of Dayton alone. Estimates of cost run as high as $60 million, and that’s not counting the houses that keep getting added to the nuisance list. We have homes to tear down, and that’s the business ARC was in, only they did things a little differently.

First, they hired ex-offenders, people who were as old as 40 and had never had a paycheck their entire life. It wasn’t just hiring and teaching them how to demolish houses, it was teaching these disadvantaged people how to work within society. How to set up a bank account, a budget, show up for work on time, the works.

Second, they were deconstructing homes, instead of running them over with a bulldozer. First they gleaned the woodwork, fixtures, windows, etc., and moved them to a warehouse to sell. Then they dismantled the home- and kept as much as 80% of the material out of the landfill. They were working on a plan to get closer to 95% by joining in with some of my other clients to do a roofing material recycling plant.

The business model was a “social enterprise.” Not a non-profit, but a company whose driving force was to do good.

However, when you’re hiring ex-cons, the ability to get bonded for big contracts had its limits. It also costs more to tear a house down by hand, but, with the reclamation of both the materials and the workers, the equation makes sense. The state spends a lot of money putting people behind bars, and very little keeping them out of prison. Filling landfills isn’t good either, and so, if the cost is even a little higher to use ARC, it still pays back. But, that was the thing- it didn’t cost more. And the contracts didn’t come their way.

Last Wednesday the City Commission granted a demolition contract to a Bellbrook-based construction company, Dyer Contracting. The contract was for another $250,000. From the agenda:

Dyer Contracting- Change Order No. 3 (CTll-0224)- for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Nuisance Abatement Residential- 201 1 Emergency Demolitions Rebid ( 1 0% MBE Goal/Participation) (Federal NSP2 Funds) – Dept. of Building Services/Housing Inspection. $250,000.00

From the supporting documents:

The Division of Housing Inspection proposes Change Order No. 3 for $250,000 to the existing contract with Dyer Contracting titled 2011 Neighborhood Stabilization Program Nuisance Abatement Residential- 2011 Emergency Demolitions Rebid project. The Change Order is requested for the demolition, removal and disposal of 33 additional residential structures or equivalent volume selected by the city, under the rules, regulations and guidelines of the contract.
The $250,000 Change Order is funded from the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program grant and the
General Capital grant match allocation. The original contract for $106,441.44 was approved on October 5,
2011, and signed on December 2, 2011. Change Order No. 1, approved on May 30, 2012, increased the total
contract to $184,741.44. Change Order No. 2, approved on October 3, 2012, increased the total contract to
$684,741.44 and amended the city’s participation goal from 10% MBE to include a 10% HUD Section 3
participation goal. This Change Order will increase the total expenditure authority to $934,741.44. The
amended participation goal is not affected by this Change Order.

This began as a $106K contract on 29 Nov 13, then there was change order 1 for $78,300, then  change order 2 for $500,000 and now Change order 3 for $250K, for a total of  $934,741.44.

The commission was not shown any documentation as to performance or compliance with the 10% MBE goals. Nor, was there a question how a contract keeps growing without rebid. Looking at Dyer Contracting’s site, they don’t even list demolition as a skill, and there is no mention of MBE participation.

Considering that 4 years ago, Rhine McLin received a campaign donation of $10K from a landfill owner named Kitt Cooper and Nan Whaley got $5K from the same, and he was located in Westerville Ohio, one wonders if contractors are picked by which landfill they use? Since ARC doesn’t put much into the landfill, maybe it’s why they don’t get the work? And how does a contract continue to grow, without being rebid? Get in early with a low bid- with a promise of more to come?

Something smells bad about this deal, and it’s not coming from ARC.

If you enjoyed reading true breaking news, instead of broken news from the major media in Dayton, make sure you subscribe to this site for an email every time I post. If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps! Please also subscribe to the Youtube channel for notifications of every video we launch – including the livestreams.