Port Angeles City Council approves measure making apprentices requisite on large public projects

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Contractors on all city public works projects totaling $1 million or more will have to use apprentices, the City Council has decided.

The ordinance, which will take effect in a week, was approved unanimously Tuesday after Councilman Dan Gase told of his concerns about the city creating more rules for contractors.

The ordinance will require city contractors on large projects to fill no less than 15 percent of the project’s total labor hours with workers in state-approved apprenticeship programs.

Contractors also will have to produce regular reports on how apprentices are used on specific projects.

Gase worried that adding more contract requirements would increase costs for both the city and the contractor.

He told city staff to figure out how much more implementing the program would cost the city.

“We don’t know because we haven’t done any financial analysis on this,” Gase said.

He said later he wants to see a report associated with a specific costs detailing the number of apprentices, hours worked and administrative costs to the city.

Craig Fulton, city public works and utilities director, said such information would be collected on a per-project basis and reported back to the council, adding that the entire program would be reviewed in four years or sooner to determine larger costs.

Gase’s concerns were echoed by Dick Pilling, chairman of the Clallam County Republican Party and a real estate broker, who works with Gase at Port Angeles-based Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty.

Pilling spoke against the program Tuesday, saying it would mean more work and more cost for contractors to supervise apprentices.

“Instead of having one worker doing a job, you have to have an additional layer of supervision,” Pilling said.

Supporters of the apprenticeship requirement came from as far away as Shelton to speak in favor of the ordinance.

Much of the first two rows of seats in council chambers were taken up by men clad in work clothes and safety vests who applauded the vote.

Tami St. Paul, a Shelton resident and Western Washington coordinator of the Operating Engineers Apprenticeship and Training Program, said the ordinance represented an “amazing apprentice opportunity.”

“I think it’s been misrepresented so far how much supervision they would require,” St. Paul said.

Port Angeles staff members worked with Councilman Lee Whetham to develop the ordinance.

Whetham, a city union leader and a plumber, had touted such a program throughout his campaign for the council seat last year.

He said he supports it because it has the potential to create more family-wage jobs for city and county residents.

“These are family-wage jobs as you complete your different apprenticeships,” Whetham said.

Gase ultimately supported the ordinance.

“As long as my objections are on the record with regard to multiple layers of government, I’ll never stop stressing that being a business guy, in light of the circumstances, I’ll support this for unanimous support for our business community,” Gase said.

He sent a Feb. 10 email to City Manager Dan McKeen expressing his concerns about the proposed ordinance and asking what other cites had adopted such rules.

McKeen replied Feb. 14 that the cities of Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Burien, Edmonds and Shoreline have implemented apprenticeship requirement programs.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the state Department of Transportation also have the rule, McKeen said.

He said city staff members are working to connect with officials at the cities of Shoreline and Edmonds to learn how their apprenticeship programs have worked for them.

Shoreline City Engineer Tricia Juhnke said Wednesday that the council there approved the ordinance in December 2010.

“We haven’t had any projects with [a] contract amount [of $1 million or more] to really have to utilize or implement [the ordinance] at this point,” Juhnke said.

Shoreline’s ordinance has the same requirements as Port Angeles’.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 19. 2014 7:22PM
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