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South Point awards bids on schools

The South Point School Board awarded bids Monday night to replace the district’s two elementary schools — projects that have come under recent criticism concerning the use of companies that employ exclusively union labor.

The nine companies the board chose in a six-hour specially called meeting all use union labor, according to Bill Palonis of Bovis Lend Lease, manager for the multi-million replacement project.

On March 11 when the bids were opened, five of the nine lowest bids came in over the advertised bid package. The nine bids totaled $15,383,974 or $135,200 over the advertised package estimate of $15,248,774.

Contracts will be awarded late this month to eight of those nine, Palonis said.

The exception is with the fire protection bid package. Originally, the low bid came from Certified Mechanical with a bid of $209,300.

However, that company has withdrawn its bid.

“After a review of the contract, there were items they felt they couldn’t meet and they stated they were not able to meet them,” Palonis said.

So the board will award a contract to the second lowest bidder — $229,750 — from Brewer & Co. of West Virginia. That puts the entire package at $155,650 over the estimates.

An ad in Sunday’s edition of The Ironton Tribune paid for by the Central Ohio Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. criticized a restriction it said the school board placed on the bidding process by requiring a project labor agreement. A PLA meant only union companies could bid on the job, the association said.

In the ad the Associated Builders encouraged South Point residents to contact the school board to complain about the PLA.

Adding the agreement came about, the Columbus-based organization contended, when the school district

adopted the 18-point model responsible bidders criteria.

“Some of the schools just adopt 15 or 16 of them. When you include all 18, it includes a union only project labor agreement,” Mary R. Tebeau, president of the Central Ohio chapter, said last week.

However, Steve Burton of the Tri-State Building and Trades Council, based in Ashland, Ky., said on Friday that it was not correct.

“There is nothing in the PLA that keeps anyone from bidding the project or being awarded the project as long as they work by the terms and conditions of what the South Point school board determined to be needed,” Burton said. “The terms and conditions of the PLA are perfectly legal and no one is denied the right to bid or be awarded the project.”

Burton said the PLA for the South Point project is identical to the one used on the Ironton schools’ replacement project. That agreement states while union and non-union workers may be hired, all workers must join and remain members in good standing with the union on the eighth day of employment.

After the job is completed, those employees can leave the union, if they choose.

Palonis said after the contracts are issued, construction on both sites will begin the first week of May with the completion date expected in early summer of 2009.

When asked why a PLA is important for the project, Palonis said, “I have been directed that if there are any PLA questions, you have to speak to the superintendent of schools.”

Friday, South Point superintendent Ken Cook said the district entered into a PLA as did the Ironton district.

“They have to follow that project labor agreement,” he said. “We are partners with the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission. It is approved by the OSFC. Again we work in conjunction with all the guidelines they established.”

A phone call was made to Cook Tuesday to gain further clarification but was not returned by press time.