Correction: The Lorain Board of Education never rescinded the Project Labor Agreement that the lawsuit was over by vote. Rather, it was withdrawn via letter from Anthony Giardini, school board attorney, to the North Central Ohio Building and Construction Council.
LORAIN — The $74 million Lorain High School construction project is back on track.
Board of Education members at a special meeting Wednesday approved settlement of a lawsuit that delayed construction bid advertisements and threatened to delay the school opening slated for August 2016. The settlement among the Sandusky-based North Central Ohio Building and Construction Council, the Ohio School Facilities Commission, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and the board allows construction to proceed with a Project Labor Agreement.
The agreement stipulates workers be unionized and calls for good-faith efforts to make half the workforce Lorain County residents. Construction is expected to begin in late April or early May, according to Jeff Hawks, Lorain Schools executive director of operations.
The suit cost local taxpayers $5,000, Hawks said.
The council sued in July over the board rescinding an agreement it approved in December 2010. The School Facilities Commission in February 2011 abolished agreements involving projects with state taxpayer money. State taxpayers are paying for 81 percent of the project.
Facilities Commission officials said the project wasn’t eligible for a waiver because bids hadn’t been advertised. However, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski in January ruled the agreement was binding and the lawsuit could continue.
Board members had worried that the suit would cause costly delays. “I want to thank all the parties for coming together and making our children the true victors,” board member Jim Smith said after the vote.
While the board supported the pact, project agreements have their critics. In March, City Council members modified agreements for city of Lorain projects with supporters saying local hiring guidelines were unrealistic and local non-union companies were being shut out of projects.
The modification stipulates 25 percent of workers on city projects of $2 million or more be Lorain County residents, and dropped the unionization requirement. The original agreement stipulated 75 percent of workers be Lorain County residents for projects of $100,000 or more and required workers to unionize while on the project.
However, proponents of project agreements say they are ideal for big projects like the high school. Mark Scarberry, a Construction Council trustee and business manager of the Lorain-based Laborers International Union of North America Local 758, said the agreement will mean at least 50 jobs for his 400-member local.
Scarberry, who didn’t attend the meeting, noted two previous Lorain school projects had project agreements and finished on time and under budget. He said the agreements mean local workers spend more money in the county and guarantees a skilled and motivated workforce. Scarberry said some workers’ children or other relatives will attend the school.
“There’s going to be a certain amount of pride and extra craftsmanship that’s going into that school,” he said. “We have a good school to build and look forward to doing that.”