ARHA Board Selects Berg Finalists In Secret

ARHA Board Selects Berg Finalists In Secret

merging from a closed door executive session, with no public discussion as to why it was closed, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) Board of Commissioners voted their choice for competing developers of "The Berg."

At the beginning of Monday night's Board meeting, Chairman A. Melvin Miller, announced that the agenda had been revised to move the vote to approve the Phase I of the developer selection from item six to item 14, following their regularly scheduled executive session.

His reason was it would give Commissioner Ruby Tucker a chance to vote. She was not present for most of the meeting due to another commitment.

Upon reconvening after the private session, they voted 6-0, with two abstentions, to have the firms of Eakin/Youngentob Associates, Inc. of Arlington, and The Communities Group of Washington, D.C., submit bids for the redevelopment project. They will be interviewed on June 19 with a selection on June 20.

In all, five firms were considered. The others were A&A Limited Partnership, Arlington; Telesis Corporation, Washington, D.C; and American Community Properties Trust, St. Charles, Md. According to Miller, after the vote, the Board's decision was based on a point system assigned to a variety of criteria.

Following the vote, Vice Chairman Carlyle C. Ring, Jr., said, "It is quite expensive for a developer to go to round two. There is a lot involved in preparing an actual bid."

In recessing for the executive session, Miller used the normal agenda language stating they were doing so to discuss personnel, legal and real estate issues. However, both Commissioners Antoine P. Cobb and Carter Flemming recused themselves from both the closed session and the final vote due to "a potential conflict of interest" on the developer selection.

Normally the executive session is the final agenda item immediately preceded by "other business." Monday night's revised version, which was distributed immediately prior to the session, placed the closed session ahead of the developer item.

This was the second change in the scheduled executive session since Miller has been in the chairman role. At the Jan. 28, Board meeting an unscheduled cloistered session was called in the middle of the meeting without explanation. At that time even ARHA staff, including Executive Director William Dearman, was excluded. They were permitted to remain for this session.

MONDAY NIGHT'S MEETING proved contentious on other items as well. During discussion on the Demolition/Disposition Application for the Samuel Madden Homes project, Ring asked, "What do we anticipate the total cost of demolition to be?"

ARHA Director of Development, Connie Lenox, said, "It has not been determined but HUD estimates $500 per unit which would come to about $250,000." She further clarified that it would depend on what hazardous materials were found on site such as asbestos.

Ring indicated that he had heard an estimate as high as $2 million. "I'm sure we've had a guesstimate. We need to know what that is," he said. Another escalating factor is the underground utility work, according to Lenox. "Underground electrical is going to raise the cost of the site astronomically," she emphasized.

After delaying approval of the 2002 comprehensive budget the past four meetings, it was finally approved by a vote of 6-0 with one abstention. Commissioner Shirley Marshall explained that, although she had met with staff to clarify certain questions, she was not comfortable voting without further time to study the information she had received.

"I asked for fund balances and only got them several days ago. I would need more time to analyze the figures before voting," she said.

Later in the meeting Dearman asked the Board to approve a resolution certifying the Public Housing Assessment Systems Score so that it could be submitted to HUD by the end of this week. He indicated that, although the report had not been written, it was a standard document.

Flemming balked at "putting her name on anything she had not seen." Marshall expressed concern that they were being asked to approve something that had not even been written. Both abstained when it came to the vote. All others voted in favor of approving the nonexistent document.

The meeting concluded with Flemming noting that at the February meeting she had asked for clarification of financial information pertaining to various items. She expressed frustration that in all the documents they had been given, prior to this meeting, she was unable to find answers to her questions.