shelter contractors clamor for cash [Philadelphia, PA] FWD

Tom Boland (
Wed, 1 Apr 1998 04:21:29 -0800 (PST)
FWD  Philadelphia Daily News: March 30, 1998


by Dave Davies
Daily News Staff Writer

While everyone waits for decisions -- and even indictments
-- 21 contractors want their money for work they did on a
homeless shelter that has cost city taxpayers $1.8 million
and may never open.

One of the contractors, Conshohocken-based Rumsey
Electric, has sued Deliverance Center of Hope II Shelter
in North Philadelphia for $26,000 for electrical supplies
it delivered when the abandoned factory was being
rehabilitated by a nonprofit associated with the
Deliverance Evangelistic Church.

Deliverance has responded in court papers by telling
Rumsey to get its money from the city -- raising the
possibility that taxpayers may get hit for thousands more.

City records show 21 vendors claim unpaid bills totaling
more than $300,000 from the project.

The FBI last August began an investigation of the troubled
400-bed shelter and Mayor Rendell began a review of
whether the city should abandon it.

The city has spent $1.8 million on the proposed family
homeless shelter, but officials halted payments on the
project last summer when questions mounted about
escalating costs. The original construction budget for the
shelter was $561,000.

Jack Graham, vice president of Rumsey Electric, said he
was contacted in December 1996 to provide materials for
the rehabilitation, and was asked to make it a rush job.

"They said they wanted all the construction to be done by
[ April ], so they could have a big opening celebration,"
Graham said. "So we busted our butts to expedite the thing
. . . We did this almost as a charity, gave them great

Graham said he delivered fixtures, fittings and other
equipment, but "got the runaround" when he called about
his bills.

"Finally we got the emergency exit signs, and I said I'm
not going to give them to them until they come up with
some money," Graham recalled. He said Deliverance paid
$5,000 and got the signs, but it was the last money he saw
from the project.

Deliverance officials and their lawyer did not return

In his response to the suit, Deliverance lawyer Jeffrey
Toalton said the church undertook the project "on behalf
of the city," and said the city alone is liable for the
unpaid bills.

The city has countered that it had no contract with Rumsey
and that its claim is solely with Deliverance.

The city agreed to fund the controversial 400-bed shelter
in North Philadelphia in 1995, when concerns about welfare
cuts prompted officials to seek more emergency beds for
homeless women and children.

One of the controversial aspects of the project was the
involvement of Michael Youngblood, a volunteer aide for
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell who has a prison record for
drug offenses.

Deliverance has never explained Youngblood's role, but
sources familiar with the project said he was the
construction manager in the early months.

Last August, federal prosecutors began an investigation of
the Deliverance project, and FBI agents subpoenaed City
Council employment records for Youngblood from the days
when he was a paid staff member for Blackwell.

Youngblood declined to comment to the Daily News last

A Rendell administration memorandum obtained by the Daily
News last fall questioned the suitability of the space as
a family shelter and estimated it would take another $1
million to $2 million to get finished and open.

City homeless policy czar Michael Nardone said last week
Rendell was still evaluating the project to see whether
the city should spend the money to salvage the project or
pull out altogether.

With winter past, there is no immediate need for shelter
space, Nardone said. Currently, the city has about 2,500
people in emergency shelter.


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