Waukegan weighs hiring local vs. bottom line


Balancing hiring local and the bottom line, the Waukegan City Council decided Monday evening that ensuring one additional local hire for a roofing job wasn’t worth the higher price.

The move was the second time in recent months that the council has waived or reduced the requirement that at least 33 percent of workers on a project worth at least $100,000 be Waukegan residents.

The most recent example centered on a roof-replacement project at the Waukegan water plant, which is currently leaking and needs to be replaced quickly, according to Jon Pekkarinen, an architect with RRP Architects, which helped the city with the bid package.

Staff decided to ask bidders to submit their cost proposals and also to indicate whether they would be able to meet the local hiring ordinance because they wanted to avoid a situation where only one company submitted a bid, Pekkarinen said.

Five bids were submitted with DCG Roofing Solutions the lowest at about $546,000, according to council documents. The Des Plaines-based company said it would be unable to meet the local hiring ordinance.

The two companies that said they would be able to meet the ordinance entered their bids at $614,700 and about $676,000, 12.5 and 23.7 percent higher than the DCG bid, though city staff said they were unable to verify that the lower of the two would in fact be able to meet it, according to council documents.

“I think they’re taking advantage of us,” Mayor Sam Cunningham said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Cunningham said the council has an obligation to the city of Waukegan to take into consideration both its local hiring ordinance as well as the city’s bottom line.

The budget approved by the council this summer projected a $2.5 million deficit, though that number could rise as a result of a state budget that cuts into the city’s home rule sales tax revenue and its share of income tax dollars to the tune of a litte more than $1 million.

“It’s a balancing act,” Ald. Greg Moisio said.

The situation had Ald. Lisa May, 7th, questioning whether the city needed to reach out to its local unions to see what trades have fewer Waukegan residents among their members and perhaps focus more on building skilled labor locally.

DCG Roofing Solutions reached out to the union that represents roofers locally to find out if and how it could potentially meet the hiring ordinance requirements, said Tim Brooker, a project manager with DCG.

The union has 15 Waukegan residents among its ranks, Brooker said, adding that ensuring workers are trained is important because roofing work can be dangerous.

Ald. Bill Valko, 8th, agreed with that concern, pointing to an incident last year when a 20-year-old man fell to his death while working on the roof of a Waukegan warehouse.

Just a week earlier, a teenager had also fallen through a skylight at that same site, though he survived, the Waukegan Fire Department said at the time.

Brooker said his conversations with the union representative made him very confident that he could get one and maybe two Waukegan residents to join the nine-man crew that would replace the roof.

The council voted to give the contract to DCG Roofing Solutions if they hire at least two Waukegan residents for the project.

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