Commissioners hear union concerns, keep resolution

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — Representatives from Laborers Local 329, a construction worker union, visited the Allen County Commissioners to make their case against a recent resolution passed by commissioners in support of a bill sponsored by State Sen. Matt Huffman that would allow municipalities to opt out of prevailing wage mandates.

Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg said if the bill were to become law, the county would utilize it to reduce the costs of capital projects by roughly 20 percent and allow the county to use the savings on additional public services.

Business Manager Earl Grigsby said without prevailing wage mandates, construction companies will reduce a worker’s wages in order to submit the lowest bid. Grigsby also explained that prevailing wage also helps ensure that public jobs get done with high quality work instead of allowing contractors to hire lower-skilled workers who can be paid for less.

“It’s caused issues in the past where the quality of work isn’t there, and they have to come back and fix it for more money,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby gave an example of a school in St. Marys where shoddy work brought on by the lack of prevailing wage resulted in an additional $3 million in work to fix its brick exterior.

Allen County Commissioners Jay Begg and Cory Noonan listened to Grigsby and then began to set down their positions on prevailing wage.

Begg said his concern was the added bureaucratic necessities that accompany prevailing wage mandates.

Noonan pointed out many schools in Allen County had been built since prevailing wage had been allowed exemptions in constructing schools, and those buildings weren’t falling down.

As for market-rate wages being lower than prevailing wage, commissioners said they would rather have the local market determine what construction workers were paid rather than an “arbitrary” rate.

“I tend to trust local contractors,” Begg said. “I tend to trust the bidding process.”

By the end of the meeting, commissioners thanked Grigsby for coming in and presenting his information, including a study that shows how prevailing wage exemptions doesn’t reduce the costs of a job. Commissioners said they would take a look at some of the materials presented by the union representatives.

But neither Noonan or Begg said they would retract their earlier resolution passed to support Huffman’s bill.

“I don’t think its our responsibility to tell contractors what to pay their workers,” Noonan said.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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