CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Residents are voicing concerns that a proposed Centre County ordinance could impact the work of contractors in the county.
At the Board of Commissioners meeting on May 23, commissioners approved the advertising of a Responsible Contractor Ordinance by a 2-1 vote. Commissioner Steve Dershem was the no.
“I’m just very concerned that what we’ve got here is something that’s going to limit the availability of local contractors to participate,” Dershem said.
The ordinance would impact large-scale government construction projects that cost at least $250,000. Those in favor, Commissioners Mark Higgins and Amber Concepcion, said it will increase safety and ensure quality work on government construction.
“This helps to ensure that quality work in highly skilled and technical fields is being done on our projects,” Concepcion said. “By using this third-party verification of their training, it does not require the county to then have to make its own evaluations of worker training.”
Contractors would have to submit a self-reported certification that would then be evaluated to see if the company meets the standards set by the ordinance.
“At this point, we get a low bid, we have to take it even if that contractor has not performed well on other public projects,” Higgins said.
Adversaries of the ordinance said this could limit opportunities for local businesses.
“You have a list of folks here, and there’s quite a bit across the state that are qualified,” Dershem said. “But if you look at Centre County, it’s just this one little section.”
Residents at the meeting were also divided.
“It is also imperative that the county not isolate small businesses from the bidding process as these businesses would likely not be able to meet the requirements,” said Alexandra Lloyd.
County Administrator John Franek said there are some situations where the ordinance could be waived by the county: if they receive a single bid or no bids.
“There have been years in the past where Centre County government would not have even had one,” Higgins said.
Now that it has been approved to be advertised, the ordinance will be on public review for a month. The commissioners will have a public hearing in late-June.
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“We’ve survived a few hundred years without this,” Dershem said. “And I think we can survive another 200.”