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Contractor quick pay: Will it compute?

By Marie Rohde

Everybody wants to be paid promptly. For some subcontractors, especially smaller businesses, it can be a life or death issue.

Last week the Milwaukee Common Council approved a measure requiring the city pay interest on bills more than 45 days old. Contractors are now required to pay subs within seven days of getting money from the city.

By the end of the month the city will decide on software that they say will track and monitor the contracts. The software could cost as much as $60,000, said Ossie Kendrix Jr., manager for the city’s emerging business program, but the city is leaning toward software that will cost about two-thirds less than the top price.

Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, one of the ordinance’s sponsors, said the measure is an easy first step toward making sure that minority and women contractors get a fair share of city work.

Over many years, study after study has pointed out that few minority-owned firms get contracts. Anecdotally, it’s been shown that construction crews have few minority workers, even on projects in minority-dominated neighborhoods.

Anecdotal evidence also points to an equally alarming situation: Some minority businesses serve as fronts for majority contractors.

It will be interesting to see if a computer program can address these issues and improve the appalling unemployment rate that plagues the inner city and threatens progress for all of Milwaukee.

Marie Rohde is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. She doesn’t trust computers.

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