Wilmington may go to court to force a countywide property reassessment

A program designed to help homeowners on Wilmington's East Side is being met with skepticism by some members of Wilmington City Council over potential hiring practices.

Mayor Mike Purzycki's Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Ogden told council's Finance Committee they they plan to use $800,000 out of the $55.3 million allocated to the city in the American Rescue Plan for Habitat for Humanity's Brush with Kindness and Rock the Block programs.

"They have a person that goes out to the community and engages with homeowners, and they talk with them about, as I call them, health and safety issues that they might have with their home. They identify the folks who might be in need of this work, and they'll hire a general contractor to do the work."

Chief of Staff Tanya Washington was asked by Councilwomen Zanthia  Oliver and Linda Gray about the hiring practices of Habitat.

"It's every intention of the administration to make sure that the funding goes to as many minority and small contractors that are out there."

Councilwoman Oliver said she was skeptical.

"I love the work that Habitat does, but it's like they're not the only game in town. I feel like this money is here, and it should be for minority contractors. I know you all are saying there will be a few, a couple. To say that we're giving them $800,000 for us to give them a list for them to manage, I just don't like it."

Oliver said not only did she not believe Habitat would focus on minority hires, she didn't believe they'd focus on having city businesses work in the city.

"The list that I saw they were dealing with, it was only two from the city out of seven. A lot of them were Zip Code 105 [19805, Elsmere] and a lot of them were from New Castle. I'm saying you are making it seem like you know Habitat, they deal with minority contractors, no they don't, they don't with minority contractors in the city."

Washington told the committee the Mayor's Office could keep council abreast as Habitat makes their hires.