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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


by Michael Monks 
Integral's Amon Martin demonstrates some
of the changes to the construction materials for River's Edge
Following a report commissioned by the City of Covington that suggested the bidding process to build River's Edge at Eastside Pointe, where the Jacob Price housing project once was, was unfair and unethical, the Housing Authority of Covington's board of commissioners reiterated Wednesday afternoon that the development will move forward. HAC's developer, Atlanta-based Integral, and its sister company, IBG, which was awarded the construction bid, will lead the project. 
Vicki Lundy Wilbon, Integral's president and chief operating officer of its real estate division, was in Covington Wednesday to address the concerns raised by the report issued by CDS Associates of Florence at the City of Covington's request. That report indicated that were the bid numbers calculated correctly, IBG would not have been the lowest bidder and also raised concerns over changes to the due date for the bids and last minute changes allowing for and then not permitting electronic bid submissions. 
To meet budget and construction deadlines, Integral "responds with our whole team," Wilbon said. "We have a great reputation, we are people of integrity. Part of the misunderstanding was that there was no public notice that there was no need for public procurement." Wilbon cited at least one instance in which an Integral project did not use IBG because they were not the lowest bidder, adding that her company set the standards for mixed-income housing developments which is what River's Edge will be
The findings by CDS promopted a heated joint caucus meeting between the City Commission and the Housing Authority's board last week. At Wednesday's HAC board meeting it was revealed that an effort is underway to assuage the concerns raised during the joint caucus. The board is working to develop ten talking points and an open letter on its website to help explain the entire process from start to finish on how River's Edge was developed from the beginning to now. 
HAC Executive Director Aaron Wolfe-Bertling
explains history of River's Edge project
However, it was not just leadership at City Hall confused about the bid process for River's Edge. "There's a clear misunderstanding by the construction community that they were going to be excluded," said City Commissioner Steve Casper, who also serves as a HAC board member. It was explained that while IBG was awarded the construction contract, no one from that entity does any of the physical labor and all of that work will be contracted out with much of the work going to local subcontractors. 
Though HAC and Integral are working on better public relations to explain how its contract for River's Edge was awarded, it turns out that each of the bids, even the winning one from IBG, was over budget. Now Integral is looking at ways to cut construction costs on the $21 million development, including the use of smaller bricks and sidewalks that are less wide than originally anticipated inside the community. Integral promises that the changes will not affect the quality or durability of the project, especially since the company has made a $4 million investment of its own into the success of River's Edge. 
"That's called skin in the game," said Casper. Building permits are expected to be handed out next week with construction expected to start in April.

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