BRENTWOOD — The City Council agreed Tuesday night to consider the feasibility of requiring prospective contractors to sign off on a labor agreement for the proposed civic center.
Council members voted to spend up to $20,000 to have a law firm study whether drawing up a so-called project labor agreement would help them accomplish specific goals while building a new city hall and community center.
Among their top priorities is to have construction jobs go to Brentwood residents whenever possible.
"As long as I'm involved in this I would really be watching who's at those jobs," said Mayor Bob Taylor, emphasizing that he wants to do everything legally possible to keep the work local.
City leaders also want to help contain costs by minimizing work delays.
Project labor agreements are blanket bargaining contracts that typically are used for large, multifaceted construction projects involving tradespeople in multiple unions.
One reason they're used is to minimize the conflicts that can arise — and interrupt construction — when these groups are following different sets of rules.
Project labor agreements standardize those rules, effectively superseding unions' existing labor agreements.
Contractors, whether they're union or nonunion shops, must agree to the terms specified in the documents before they can start working.
The agreements establish such ground rules as how disputes between trade groups
If such an agreement is ultimately negotiated between contractors and unions, it also would contain a clause preventing strikes and lockouts.
The documents also set up procedures that successful bidders must follow to help the company or agency doing the project achieve its objectives.
In Brentwood's case, that would mean hiring workers based on where they live instead of going by seniority, as is usually the practice.
The study will take about a month to complete, after which the City Council will decide whether to proceed by authorizing the negotiation of the agreement with the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents all trade unions in the county.
After that, the city will start soliciting bids, at which point the civic center project no longer will be considered a proposed undertaking but one that's actually under way.
The current timeline calls for the city to start soliciting bids and issuing bonds in June, award a contract in August and start construction the following month.
Councilman Eric Stonebarger cast the lone dissenting vote on proceeding with the study, saying he thinks the city is moving too quickly on the civic center in these uncertain times.
Until he can be sure that the economy has hit rock bottom and Brentwood's declining revenue has reversed course, he said he doesn't want to commit tens of millions of dollars.
But others are itching to see the civic center materialize and argue that the recession is precisely why the city should press ahead.
Hungry for work, contractors are submitting lower bids and the drop in fuel prices means construction materials cost less — all of which spells savings for the city, one person noted.
Among those in the audience who urged the City Council to proceed with the study was Harry York, chief executive officer of Brentwood's chamber of commerce.
"It's a great opportunity for us — and not just for the labor force," he said of an agreement that would require contractors to hire Brentwood residents first.
Not only would those individuals be earning a paycheck, but they in turn would have money to patronize Brentwood businesses, York said.
Reach Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.