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City council meeting brings heated debate on wages

By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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At a recent Folsom City Council meeting, the subject of prevailing wages brought heated discussion to city hall. More than 30 people voiced their opinions on a resolution amending the city of Folsom’s standard construction specifications pertaining to prevailing wages. City Attorney Bruce Cline presented the issue at the meeting. “When the city is working with someone else to do a public works project, under our specifications, it says all that work must be done through pursuing prevailing wages,” Cline said. “That work, when it gets bid, will do it using prevailing wage rates.” He said from a legal standpoint, using a non-prevailing wage rate with this kind of work would be legal. “I put this item forward so council could make the decision because we are a charter city,” Cline said. “So we have the power over municipal affair.” According to the staff report, “The city has the right under its charter to address the subject of paying prevailing wages on city public works projects or those contracted on behalf of the city. Prevailing wages are not required to be paid by a charter City when the matter relates to a municipal affair and not one of statewide concern or when funding source mandates paying prevailing wages. The decision to require prevailing wages on a project that is a municipal affair is a policy decision of the City Council.” Cline said that the types of projects he was providing to the city at the meeting were local city projects with city money. “My role was to offer legal options,” he said. “The city attorney is not a policy maker. The council has to drive the policy.” The council decided to not move forward with the issue because some members felt there was not enough information at this time. “The council decided from a policy standpoint that they would continue to require prevailing wage on city public work projects regardless of where the funds are,” Cline said. One man who spoke on the item at the meeting was Jason McDonald a Folsom resident and construction worker. “I’m a (seasonal ) construction worker…I work six to eight months in a year,” McDonald said at the meeting. “When work is there, the money is good; it has to be in order for me to provide the luxuries to my family for me to live here. My work is not easy, it’s tough on the body, the hours are long and sometimes I have to travel out of town. Please don’t deprive me the opportunity to work here in my hometown. The prevailing wage rate is barely enough to keep me and my family afloat. I beg you not to vote this through.” Mayor Andy Morin opted to table the item. “To what degree do we go to capture savings and what those savings do for us,” Morin said. “What can we do as a city for finance? And at what cost? Understand that I want to see this before us again, but I don’t feel comfortable making this decision tonight.” Council member Steve Miklos agreed with Morin. “We are in extraordinary times with extraordinary challenges,” Miklos said. “For me, I don’t think what’s in front of me is necessarily the right choice. I want to have more information and see this again. This just feels wrong to me at this time.” Council member Jeff Starsky, said the city needs to look at other possibilities and other options to save money. Cline said that city staff, including him, is encouraged to look for alternatives to saving money in the city. “The people who came to tell their standpoint (at the meeting) gave a strong argument on why we should stay with prevailing wages,” Cline said. “People are happy with the way things have been done.” Doyle Radford Jr., of Roseville, came to speak at the meeting. “It’s not a union/nonunion issue,” Radford said. “We are construction workers. This directly affects us. We have to make prevailing wage rates. If you change this, it’s not going to help the middle class.”