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Columbus Construction Policy Could Favor Unions on New Commons

If the City of Columbus wins its remonstrance and proceeds with plans to build a new downtown Commons, Mayor Fred Armstrong says the project will not go forward without a project labor agreement.

But non-union companies have told the mayor’s office they a PLA would place them out of the competition for city projects because they’re hesitant to agree to the provisions in the 30-40 page document.

The agreement would bind the construction company working on the building to specific terms that must be followed onsite.

Armstrong says the city accepts bids from union and nonunion companies, but the requirements in a PLA are similar to those which unions already have, such as paying prevailing wage to all employees.

Armstrong says past projects without project labor agreements caused problems for the city.

“These were pretty large projects. And they had really big problems with them. When you have a PLA, the way ours in written up, we wanted to make sure the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted to make sure there was no work stoppages and excuses for this and that. It’s quite extensive, the PLA is,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong says a months-long delay on the Commons due to a remonstrance on the project, coupled with multiple bids coming from companies outside the Columbus area, convinced him a PLA is essential toward preventing work stoppages and any of problems with the project.

He says, in the past, that wouldn’t have been the case.

“When times were good, you didn’t hear a whole lot about it. You know, well, times are bad and the market opens up a little. And now people are more concerned. The companies that are not bidding the PLAs, that maybe could but aren’t, are good companies I’m sure,” Armstrong said.

The city’s Board of Public Works will open the eight to ten bids at a meeting on Thursday.

A hotel planned for the same city block, which would attach to the Commons, is still on hold.

The hotel’s developer pulled the plug on the project’s groundbreaking after a remonstrance halted the Commons project.

Word on final remonstrance signature tallies are expect in the next two weeks, but some city officials speak only about the fact leaks from the county auditor’s office indicate their side won the contest.

The city will not award a bid on the project until the end of July.

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