Bashed Sheraton bidder deemed ‘right team’ last year
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 February 24, 2014 5:24PM
A chain link fence separates the Sheraton Hotel from the City Hall parking lot to the north. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune
Updated: February 25, 2014 11:50AM
GARY — When it awarded the now-troubled contract to a Michigan company to tear down the dilapidated 17-story Sheraton Hotel last year, the former president of the Redevelopment Commission voiced assurance in the process.
“We are confident we chose the right team,” said J. Forest Hayes, who served as president of the Redevelopment Commission last year. Hayes is no longer on the commission; a city spokeswoman on Monday said Hayes is director of the city’s Economic Development Commission.
Seven bids were submitted. The commission awarded a $1,777,000 contract on Nov. 20 to Homrich Inc. of Carlton, Mich. It was the second-lowest bid.
“The thing I’m most proud of is we have a process that has integrity,” Hayes said after a representative from the company with the lowest bid asked the commission to rescind its action during the Nov. 20 meeting.
“We were the lowest bidder and quite frankly, we are a responsible bidder,” said Bert Brewer of Environmental Cleansing Inc. of Markham, Ill.
With just $1,363 difference between the bids, Brewer said there should have been a scope review, which wasn’t done. “They never called one reference,” he said.
In last week’s state of the city address, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Homrich wasn’t complying with local hiring regulations or environmental rules.
“I conducted a meeting in my office to put the company on notice that before I allow them to jeopardize our relationship with environmental oversight regulators or ignore qualified citizens that I am entrusted to serve that I would shut down the project and litigate it myself,” she said in her address.
On Monday, Freeman-Wilson said the city was making a “good faith effort” to work with Homrich.
Two workers were on the Sheraton site Monday. Chain-link fencing adorned with warning signs now surrounds the hotel. It doesn’t appear, however, that work has begun. A Homrich representative didn’t return a call for comment on Monday.
The hotel has been shuttered since 1985.
The demolition is being financed by federal funding from the Community Development Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.