Last week the Marlboro Board of Education authorized a resolution to allow Superintendent Michael Brooks to begin negotiating a labor agreement for the $19.49 million Vision 2020 Capital Project.
Last fall the school board hired Nautilus Consulting to conduct a Project Labor Agreement Feasibility Study in connection with the Capital Project. The firm’s study, which resulted in last week’s resolution before the school board, states that using a labor agreement for this project, “will provide significant benefits in terms of time, costs, savings and mitigation of risks, while at the same time fostering more competition among union, non-union and MWBE [Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise] firms that should result in an estimated cost savings to the Vision 2020 Project in the amount of $792,500.”
In response to board member John Cantone’s query on whether Nautilus would participate in the actual negotiation process, Superintendent Brooks said, “They will be an important adviser as we work on the integration of the language but the primaries that will advise me on it will be our construction manager, Jacobs [Global Field Services], and our architect, CS Arch. All have been vetted by [school attorney] Dan Petigrow. The next time the board will see this, it will really be embedded in the fabric of the bids that come to the board for acceptance.”
Brooks said this project is subject to prevailing wage.
“This is an agreement ahead of time that the district and the unionized labor union will agree on terms for this project. As you read in the document, it ensures cost savings and assurances of stability,” he said.
In a subsequent interview, Superintendent Brooks said in the Spring of 2019 the labor unions asked the district if they were interested in a Project Labor Agreement, with the board indicating they were interested in exploring that possibility.
“The law requires before a school board enters into a Project Labor Agreement that they hire a company to do a feasibility study. They look at quantitative and qualitative elements related to the project, so there are elements that can be built into the agreement that can save taxpayers money,” Brooks said. “We are not divulging the details of the study yet because those are our bargaining chips. This is just acknowledging that the board has seen the report and is moving forward.”
Brooks said having clarity will help in the bidding process.
“The way that the contractors will have to interact with the labor unions will be defined in the bid documents; costs associated with it, training requirements, stability requirements, no strike clauses, things like that,” Brooks said. “Those are elements that we build into the front end of the bidding process so it helps us to clearly define the outcome at the end of the bidding process.”
Brooks said this is neither a typical or atypical process.
“It depends on the uniqueness of any one particular community and maybe sometimes one particular job,” he said. “The study shows financial savings but also non-monetary savings in quality control, training background and stability; and stability really gets into continuous labor force and no strike.”
Brooks said it would be “ideal” if this process realizes significant savings, but stressed that the project will not go over the approved total amount of $19.49 million.
Brooks is hoping that the board will have bids from contractors before them in late March or by early April.
“We want to get those awarded as soon as the weather breaks and as soon as they can start to stage themselves and get going. By the time we get to July, it’s going to be a flurry of activity in all three schools,” Brooks predicted.