September 17, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain mandates local hires get preference for projects

LORAIN — In a job market with few guarantees, City Council members are trying to get some for Lorain County residents.

Council members on Monday approved ordinances mandating that 75 percent of workers on city projects of $100,000 or more be county residents. Lorain residents will be given first preference.

Exceptions, such as when there are no local residents qualified to do the work, would have to be approved by Council members. The city previously decided on local hiring on a case-by-case basis.

“This is one way that we are going to be able to increase our revenues and put food on the table in Lorain,” resolution sponsor Councilman Bret Schuster, D-4th Ward, said before the vote. “By putting our people to work first.”

Schuster said after the meeting that the ordinances were in response to high unemployment in Lorain, partially triggered by corporations shipping jobs out of Lorain and the rest of the nation. Schuster said local hiring has a ripple effect on the county’s economy.

“Local people live here. They’re going to spend here,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of our home first, and our home is Lorain and Lorain County.”

The ordinances were modified from what Council members discussed Oct. 24. The changes included encouraging, but not mandating, that 9 percent of the 75 percent of county residents hired be minorities. Law Director Pat Riley said mandating minority quotas is illegal.

Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at large, said she cast the lone dissenting vote because she said she wasn’t given enough time to read the changes.

“It should’ve been given to us a long time ago. … “Not today, two minutes before the meeting starts.”” said Molnar, who also called for the city to hire a construction manager to oversee all city projects.

To increase minority hiring, the ordinances call on local unions to work with Lorain County Community College to promote minority apprenticeships with the unions. County AFL-CIO President Joe Thayer said the unions support the ordinances and have worked on them with city officials for about two years.

“It’s just one more avenue to reach out to folks who may not know about the trades,” Thayer said. “It doesn’t matter what color you are — white, black, green, yellow, purple — everybody has the right to work.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.