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D.C. Activist Says Council Contract Dispute Puts Communities In Limbo

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One southeast D.C. neighborhood may not get a long-anticipated recreation center because of a controversy in the Mayor's office involving park contracts.
Mana Rabiee
One southeast D.C. neighborhood may not get a long-anticipated recreation center because of a controversy in the Mayor's office involving park contracts.

By Mana Rabiee

A neighborhood in southeast D.C. may not get a long-anticipated rec center because of a controversy in the Mayor's office involving park contracts.

Chalaneet Balas pushes open the chain link fence that closes-off the once-busy Rosedale Rec Center. She's with the Rosedale Grassroots Organization which lobbied hard for a new rec center to be built on the site of the current one. It's just one in a bundle of contracts worth $86 million awarded to Banneker Ventures.

The city council is considering voiding those contracts as it reviews whether the firm's founder had improper contact with city officials before winning the contracts.

But Balas says the council's decision puts the rec center in limbo and made the site into a no-man's land. "They obviously need to rectify what the procurement process needs to be. The flip side of that is that our community along with many other communities in the city are going to suffer in the meantime," says Balas.

"I would say a brief delay for the sake of long-term success is better than rushing forth where people have done things wrong," says Council Member Harry Thomas, chair of the council's parks and recreation committee.

Thomas won't give details but says the council is close to deciding what action they can take in the contract dispute.

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