Sonoma County Supervisors appear to back project labor agreements

[caption id="attachment_67318" align="alignnone" width="500"] A worker in January 2013 positions the beam used in the "topping off" ceremony for the Graton Resort & Casino project, which opened in November. The project is one of several pointed to as successful North Bay examples of project labor agreements.[/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday appeared to back a proposed policy for project labor agreements on public construction of more than $10 million, although the matter will come back for a final vote in two weeks.

The board sent the matter back to county staff to draw up a final policy based on hours of debate, including more than three hours of public comment from both proponents and opponents.  A majority of the board signaled support for a PLA policy, with Supervisor David Rabbit expressing the most reservations but not outright opposition. A final vote will take place during the board's Jan. 28 meeting.

While PLAs aren't final policy, opponents of such agreements sounded a tone of frustration and imminent defeat in the pitched political battle.

"What happened today was an incredible disappointment if you're a Sonoma County taxpayer," said Keith Woods, CEO of the North Coast Builders Exchange, which has long held that PLAs drive up costs for contractors.'Alternate bid,' $10 million threshold

The exchange's position, however, is that if it had to live with a countywide PLA policy, it would prefer a so-called "alternate bid" process, wherein a given construction project would be put out by the county to bid as both a PLA and a nonunion project, in an attempt to see which was more cost-effective. 

Supervisors Efren Carrillo and Rabbit were the only board members to express strong support for this measure, with the remaining board noting that if the county determines a project bid is too high, it already has the authority to reject the bid and therefore would put out bids that were only a PLA.

Supervisors also lowered the threshold for PLA projects to $10 million, significantly below the originally proposed PLAs threshold for projects totaling more than $25 million on federally funded projects and more than $10 million on state or locally funded projects.

Supervisor Mike McGuire said the $10 million threshold and the proposed PLA policy are more than adequate, noting that the average county project is $4 million, according to the General Services Department.

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