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New London committee backs effort to promote hiring, training of local workers by contractors

New London - A City Council committee gave its approval Monday for a new ordinance that would require contractors working on city projects to hire a percentage of local union workers and provide apprenticeship programs to teach city residents a trade.

"This is an opportunity. It's not just a job. We're offering a career," said Chris Bachant, business representative for New England Regional Council of Carpenters. The carpenters union brought the proposed ordinance to the city.

In the nearly $60 million magnet school construction project in the city, which is winding down, about 95 percent of the workers were from New York, Bachant said.

"This ordinance allows a percentage of workers from New London or New London County be required to work on a job,'' he said. "And any company working on a city project must comply with the Connecticut apprenticeship program."

The proposed ordinance does not specify an exact percentage of area workers that would have to be hired.

The Administration Committee approved the proposed ordinance 2-1 and forwarded it to the full council for a vote Sept. 3.

Councilor Adam Sprecace voted against the proposal, saying he agreed with the requirement to hire local workers but did not want to approve language that excludes companies that do not have apprenticeship programs from bidding on a project.

"It could drive up the costs,'' he said.

But other councilors commended Bachant for bringing the proposal to the council's attention.

"I applaud you and your efforts,'' said Councilor Wade Hyslop, chairman of the committee. "I have to agree that sometimes it's not always colleges that will get you where you want to be."

Council President Michael Passero also thanked the carpenters for bringing the issue forward.

"It's incumbent on us to get to work on this ordinance and get it done, post haste,'' he said.

Bachant said the carpenters union just completed a preapprenticeship carpentry program through a grant from the Workforce Investment Board for 13 people, including six from New London. He received calls from another 35 residents after the program concluded, asking when it would be held again, he said.

"I think there is huge need,'' he said. "This is an opportunity to get training for a job and a career.''

The Carpenters Local 24, which has 1,800 members representing about half the state, and other trades are expecting a boon in construction during the next few months. A proposed National Coast Guard Museum for New London and other projects at Mohegan Sun Casino and Foxwoods Resort Casino, will be bringing construction jobs to the area, he said.

In 2010, the City Council rescinded a similar ordinance in a split vote that ran along party lines.

In 2008, the City Council passed a "Responsible Contractor Ordinance" requiring contractors to have apprenticeship programs and asking them to "make a good-faith effort" to hire people from New London County. It was repealed after several city councilors alleged that it has pushed up construction bids for the magnet school project.

A resolution, which is nonbinding, was then approved. It required contractors who work in the city "to make a good faith effort" to hire at least 25 percent of its workforce from New London County, with those in-city getting a priority.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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