But council member Mel Franklin (D-At Large) said his concerns were alleviated by a letter Wednesday from the companies who would be receiving the $1.24 billion contract to build and maintain the schools, who said they would strive for 20 percent engagement from minority-owned firms located in Prince George’s.
The terms laid out in the contract say that the project, which will be led by Fengate Capital Management and Gilbane Building Co., require that 30 percent of the county’s money go to minority-owned firms, with 20 percent of that spending going to minority-owned businesses based in Prince George’s.
The letter from the developers specifies that the new goal does not alter the contractual obligations, which carry a financial penalty if they are not met. Franklin said he would have preferred for the contract to require the higher participation from minority-owned firms in the county, but that he was “glad we were able to get the commitment from the developer so we were able to move forward united.”
The Prince George’s County Board of Education is scheduled to vote next week on the contract.
On Thursday, the resolution establishing the governance structure for the partnership passed the council’s committee of the whole 8 to 3. There will be a final vote next week. Council members Thomas E. Dernoga (D-District 1), Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) and Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8), who voted no, said there needed to be more transparency in the process and questioned its timing amid a pandemic that led to questions about how classrooms will look once children return to schools.
Prince George’s has said it will not return students to the classroom until at least late January.
Their concerns mirrored those expressed by a coalition of advocates and community members who earlier this week hosted a town hall to rally support against the P3 model.
Council members who supported the measure said the public-private partnership is necessary to address a more than $8.5 billion backlog in construction that left some schools with crumbling, outdated buildings. Especially in the county’s rapidly growing north, schools have also been plagued by overcrowding.