Loves Park scraps deconstruction project

By Stuart R. Wahlin
Staff Writer

As a disagreement between Carpenters Local 792 and Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc. (CCS) heads to federal court, the City of Loves Park will resort to demolition of the former Hines Lumber Company at 721 Pearl Ave. (See “Lawsuit by carpenters union targets YouthBuild program” in the March 24-30 issue).

CCS operates the YouthBuild Rockford program, four graduates of which were contracted to deconstruct the lumberyard facility as part of a green job-training pilot program made possible through a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program focused on dismantling the facility for salvage and recycling of construction materials, thereby diverting debris from the landfill.

CCS was hoping for an extension of the initial 20-day, $19,000 contract, but objections from union carpenters caused the city to distance itself from the deconstruction program. Instead, the city will pay to demolish the lumberyard, and the construction materials will go to the landfill.

Carpenters Local 792 filed a grievance, alleging CCS Construction, LLC, a union contractor that filed for bankruptcy last summer, is now operating as CCS, Inc., a nonprofit, and that CCS is therefore bound by a collective bargaining agreement requiring prevailing wages.

Kerry Knodle, CCS founder and executive director, asserts that is not the case. Knodle said CCS Construction, LLC and CCS, Inc., are separate legal entities, but Local 792 leadership argues the two are tied together.

A March 4 hearing before the Northern Illinois Building Contractors Association’s (NIBCA) Joint Grievance Committee sustained the carpenters’ complaint, ordering CCS to pay $48,785.76 for the alleged infraction. The union filed a federal lawsuit March 11 in the hope a judge will order CCS to pay the arbitration award.

Meantime, union leaders argue the deconstruction project falls under a state mandate requiring that prevailing wages be paid for publicly-funded demolition. Knodle, however, believes deconstruction and demolition are two distinctly different types of work, and that the deconstruction project is not subject to prevailing wage laws. Knodle cited an exception in state law that indicates prevailing wages do not have to be paid if no new construction is to follow demolition. He noted the city plans no construction once the project is complete, and that the land will be conveyed to the park district.

For the time being, both sides await clarification from state legislators or the Department of Labor as to whether prevailing wages apply to deconstruction, or just to demolition.

The YouthBuild graduates participating in the training program were being paid much closer to minimum wage than the prevailing wage of approximately $34 per hour. By requiring prevailing wages to be paid for the green project, Knodle and Loves Park officials say, deconstruction simply becomes unfeasible.

But Brad Long, president of Local 792, said he’s open to creating a new job classification that would permit lower pay for deconstruction so that such projects can remain viable.

From the March 31-April 6, 2010 issue

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