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County to study its own labor agreement

Hot on the heels of a months-long Cloquet debate, Carlton County is taking its turn to determine whether its own Project Labor Agreement (PLA) — dating back to 2013 — for county construction projects should be dropped or amended.

The county’s PLA calls for public construction projects to be completed by workers that are members of a union. The Carlton County PLA only affects projects estimated to be bid for more than $175,000. Unlike Cloquet, the county PLA doesn’t apply to private construction, only publicly funded projects. All county construction projects have a prevailing wage requirement, using either state wages rates or federal wage rates.

County commissioners at their regular meeting on June 8 unanimously approved a plan offered by county engineer JinYeene Neumann to form a task force to study the issue. Neumann said there are three options to be considered:

1. Eliminate the PLA.

2. Increase the dollar figure triggering a PLA.

3. Not make PLA enforceable on projects that include federal funding, which automatically require prevailing wage.

Neumann said the current system of bidding restrictions increases the cost of construction projects, plus some contractors will not bid on a project that has a PLA. Projects using federal funding can take an extra six months for needed approval with a PLA, she said.

Commissioner Marv Bodie talked about the PLA in the committee of the whole meeting on June 1. “Workers with good union jobs build homes here, buy groceries in our local stores, use our local service industries, and pay property taxes and sales taxes. A prosperous local labor force is good for our economy.”

The task force is made up of two commissioners, the county engineer or assistant engineer, county coordinator, economic development director, county attorney representative, and two labor union representatives.

Board chairman Tom Proulx and commissioner Dick Brenner were appointed as board representatives.

In other meeting news:

-Intense study continues for a possible justice and jail complex at the forested area north of the county transportation building. Highway engineer Neumann received permission to hire consultants to evaluate the intersection of State Highway 210 and County State Aid Highway 61 at Carlton Junction and recommend a possible solution for traffic congestion and increased traffic a facility would bring. Neumann said the consultant was needed to get the information quickly rather than waiting for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which can take several months to complete such a study.

-A closed session was called to make an offer on the possible sale of the Carlton High School property. County Coordinator Dennis Genereau said Highway 210 has become the preferred site for construction of the jail but “we should have a backup plan. Although probably much more costly, construction of a justice center at the present courthouse would need some of the land now owned by the Carlton School District.”

-Wood City Riders is sponsored by Carlton County for construction, maintenance, and seasonal operation of snowmobile trails in both Carlton and St. Louis counties. Carlton County is asking for a permit to use the west side of Minnesota Highway 33 in Cloquet from Big Lake Road to Gillette Road.

-Carlton County accepted $610,000 from MnDOT for a multi-use trail from the Moose Lake School area down County State Aid Highway 10 to Minnesota Highway 73 and down to Highway 61. Carlton County will provide engineering and other costs.

-The Carlton County transportation department continues to phase out private driveway snow plowing. Service will be offered this fall to those on the list last season. Only 20 to 25 homes are on the list.

The transportation department was given permission to increase some permit fees starting July 1:

* Utility permits would be set at $200 with a $1,000 deposit or $5,000 bond. There was no fee before this change.

* Special event permits will be $100. There was no cost before.

* Driveway permits have been $50 with $200 deposit and now will be $100 with a $500 deposit.

* Moving permits for oversized vehicles will now be $25 per trip or $200 annually, up from $10 and $60. Overweight vehicles will go to $50 per single trip from $10. Annual permits that once were a flat $60 will now be $200 to $500 depending on the weight.

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