Scramble over Irvis Center…CCAC cancels bid deadline

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Following multiple complaints surrounding its contracting procedures regarding construction of the $22 million K. Leroy Irvis Science Center, including a lawsuit filed by non-union contractors, the Community College of Allegheny County has cancelled its bid deadline.

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Pa. filed a lawsuit charging the college with entering into a Project Labor Agreement that required 90 percent of the workforce to come from union shops.

BillRobinson
BILL ROBINSON

Eileen Watt, former county councilwoman and president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Western Pennsylvania branch, said some of her members complained they would have to lay off their own employees to hire union members in order to work on the Irvis Center project. Watt said the ABC has scheduled a press conference on the contracting issues and the PLA for Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. in West Park across from the CCAC campus.

Project Labor Agreements are typically put in place to insure there will be no strikes during construction. Facilities manager Bob Hamilton said the college’s decision to require, for the first time, 90 percent labor-union participation on construction projects that cost more than $150,000 was patterned on Allegheny County’s procedures adopted in March and was designed only to ensure a “prevailing wage.”

However, on Aug. 13 County Executive Dan Onorato said CCAC officials might have been looking at “old language” from county guidelines.

“To put a specific percentage on it was probably wrong, and that’s why they were pulled back,” he said.

All this comes on the heels of New Pittsburgh Courier Columnist Louis “Hop” Ken­drick writing that the construction management team the college introduced at its pre-bid meeting consisted entirely of White Males.

“How can you talk about Black participation—on a project named for the first Black Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania—and have five white males on that stage,” said Kendrick.

Irvis, “known as the Lion of Pennsylvania,” was a lifelong champion of civil rights, died in 2006 at age 86. During his 30-year career, he was elected speaker four times. Irvis was also instrumental in creating and supporting the community college system.

In it’s official response on the Courier editorial page, which did not answer Kendrick’s question after two days of revisions, Board President Thomas Santone, President Alex Johnson and finance chair state Sen. Jay Costa stated the college had an “expectation” that the project would include “a significant percentage of (Minority- Women- and Disadvantaged-Business Enterprise) workers and subcontractors.”

Board trustee Bill Robinson, who succeeded Irvis in Harrisburg as the state representative for the 19th Legislative District, said the college is now reevaluating all its contracting and bidding procedures.

“Over the last few weeks, the board and Dr. Johnson have indicated there will be review all procurement processes,” he said. “It is my understanding that there will not be any new contracts approved until that review is complete. Contracts already issued would be enforced. The project management team will remain in place”

Robinson said the review would continue regardless of the lawsuit’s status. When asked, as someone mentored by Irvis, for his reaction to the all-white management team, lead by Turner Construction, and its ability to insure Black participation, Robinson said, “I’m personally confident that before this project is completed, it will reflect the life and achievements of K. Leroy Irvis.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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