Prevailing wage again a Kane County issue in $800,000 contract
Kane County Board members continued their four-year battle over embracing Illinois' prevailing wage by hiring a company with at least eight known violations of the law.
Board members voted 14-10 to give a contract for pavement preservation worth $793,000 to a Missouri-based company with a record of at least eight prevailing wage violations from 2008 to 2013. The vote followed a familiar debate among county board members who support a prevailing wage and opponents to the state law who believe it increases costs to local taxpayers.
State law requires the county board to adopt a prevailing wage determined by the Illinois Department of Labor that sets the hourly wage, benefits and overtime for workers involved in government contracts. Last July, six Republican county board members voted against adopting the prevailing wage in support for Gov. Bruce Rauner's push to reform the law. Eighteen states do not have a prevailing wage law. In Illinois, not paying workers on government projects the prevailing wage is a Class A misdemeanor.
"One violation, to me, is one too many," county board member Brian Dahl said in urging colleagues to reject the contract with Microsurfacing Contractors LLC. "When we have an out-of-state contractor with eight prior prevailing wage complaints, that's unacceptable. This company is not a responsible bidder. This company has no business doing work in Kane County."
But county board member Drew Frasz, a nonunion contractor, said it is not uncommon for a small business to run afoul of the prevailing wage law because of its many intricacies.
He also said county board members became aware of the company's violations only because of a letter sent by a pro-union organization known as the Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting. It appeared the foundation was targeting the company for not supporting unions, Frasz said.
"I would ask that you consider the source of the information," he said.
The bids themselves somewhat handcuffed Kane County Board members in Tuesday's vote. Only two companies bid on the project; both have records of prevailing wage violations. A "no" vote would have forced the county to rebid the contract while seeking new bidders.
Frasz said eight violations is more than even he would like to see, but those violations did not preclude the company from being a qualified bidder. That means a "no" vote may have also fueled a lawsuit against the county for rejecting the cheapest, legal bidder.
Tuesday's "yes" vote means it will be up to the county to ensure the company follows its prevailing wage ordinance.
Wage: Only two companies bid on project