By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School's new architect will be expected to consider diversity in the contractors it hires for work in the building, says a member of the high school board of education.
The board hired Chicago-based Legat Architects in December and was scheduled to vote on a contract last week. The contract, though, was not approved at last Thursday's regular monthly meeting. The vote was split 3-3 (board President Dietra Millard was absent). Certain details of the agreement, such as specific pricing for services, still need to be finalized, but Legat had hoped the board would approve the contract, contingent on those details being ironed out and brought back for later review. The board expects the contract to be approved within the next couple of weeks.
But prior to Thursday's meeting, board member John Allen insisted that strong language be added to the agreement regarding hiring minority contractors — Legat will oversee projects but will contract with firms who will do the actual work. Cheryl Witham, OPRF's chief financial officer, said there originally was language about diversity in the contract but the school's lawyer expressed concerns that it might trigger lawsuits against the school. Witham added that the attorney is working on new language and insisted that Legat was committed to diversity among its contractors.
In related news, Witham said the school should expect to see a significant savings as a result of splitting the architectural and construction duties with its new firm. Legat will be overseeing this summer's construction projects at OPRF.