Brookfield trustees chose the design shown above for the fountain at Eight Corners, incorporating service branch emblems into the wall of the fountain basin, which also designates the spot as the Veterans Memorial Circle. (Village of Brookfield)

Elected officials in Brookfield could decide to forego a $250,000 state grant to replace the fountain at the Veterans Memorial Circle if grant requirements related to its general contractor using minority owned businesses aren’t met.

Just prior to putting the fountain project out to bid last summer, village officials learned the state would release $250,000 that had been set aside for the work in the 2019 capital bill.

The funds, administered through the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), come with requirements to hire a certain percentage of what the state calls “disadvantaged business enterprises” for project that receive state grant funding. 

To date, the DCEO has not informed Brookfield of what that percentage will be for the fountain project, even though the village awarded a $598,000 contract to Integral Construction Inc., the low bidder, for the work.

According to Public Works Director Carl Muell, Integral Construction’s bid included 9.5 percent disadvantaged business enterprise participation, which is expected to fall short of the state’s requirement, guessed to be about 20 percent.

That does not mean the grant won’t be available, but it probably will mean Integral Construction will have to demonstrate to the state that they made a “good faith effort” to get proposals from those businesses. 

Because so much of the project’s expense comes from the cost of the fountain itself, there may be fewer companies capable of sourcing such materials. In any case, it’s likely to take some time for the state and Integral Construction to go through that process, and the clock on the project keeps ticking.

Officials initially had hoped to get the fountain installed last fall but pushed it into 2022. With the DCEO grant still up in the air, Muell told village trustees on Feb. 28 that he didn’t expect the state to sign off on Integral Construction’s effort to either beef up its minority-owned business percentage or its good faith effort to try until the end of May.

That means the earliest construction could start was sometime in June, with expected completion in September.

However, there’s no guarantee the issues related to grant funding will be sorted out by the end of May, at which time village trustees may have a decision to make on waiting longer or scrapping the grant and moving ahead on their own.

“If we are no closer to the state making a decision at that time, we can assess other options,” Muell told trustees.

The village can use Eight Corners TIF District funds to pay expenses related to the fountain, since it is considered public infrastructure.

Until May, Muell recommended village officials wait to see whether the grant requirements can be satisfied. While trustees were on board with that recommendation, they were clearly frustrated by another delay.

“I think this is an example of how government doesn’t work,” said Trustee Kit Ketchmark, who criticized the state for failing to know exactly what the minority-owned business participation percentage needed to be for months saying it would release the grant funds.

“Like every other grant we’ve gotten, we know there’s strings attached to it,” Ketchmark said. “What’s crazy here is the length of time to give us an answer to what we need to do to comply.”

In the meantime, it’s unlikely the existing fountain will be working at all. The pump is no longer operational and the fountain itself sustained damage last fall when an alleged drunk driver crashed into it.

“The board might have a tough decision to make in the coming months,” Village President Michael Garvey said.