Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Minority Partnership Picked for Ballpark Contractors Dislike Labor Union Agreement

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Minority Partnership Picked for Ballpark Contractors Dislike Labor Union Agreement

Article excerpt

City Hall's choices for the first two key consulting jobs for the Better Jacksonville Plan show signs of meeting city leaders' goals of pushing local and minority participation in the construction program.

Cory Fine, an assistant professor in business administration at the University of North Florida, received city administrators' backing yesterday to study whether the city should sign a broad -- and controversial -- agreement with local labor unions, a deal many contractors dislike.

Meanwhile, negotiations have begun with Gilbane Sports Renaissance, a joint venture involving local black developer Carlton Jones, to manage the $150 million ballpark and arena construction.

Although Mayor John Delaney must OK the selections and deals, top city officials say his approval is expected. While the $2.2 billion construction and preservation program has a ways to go, city officials said the selections suggest companies may take the mayor's goals to heart.

The city expects to pay $50,000 to $100,000 for the labor study, said Dave Schneider, senior project manager for Better Jacksonville Plan.

The city likely will pay up to $3 million to the joint venture to oversee construction of the $125 million arena and $25 million ballpark. The company would work for City Hall's administrators.

The labor study, however, opens the door to a division between unions and contractors. The city wants the study to analyze whether an agreement would help save costs and get the projects done on time, but no decision on crafting an agreement has been made.

Unions support the agreements, arguing they help costs and timing, as well as keep wage levels strong. But contractors feel the agreements put non-union businesses at a disadvantage and force up labor costs because of the union involvement.

The Associated General Contractors of Greater Florida argued against the agreements in late February letters to Delaney and City Council President Alberta Hipps. Such an agreement "violates the well-established principle that public entities have no business in determining the labor policies of private contractors," wrote Stevan Hall, AGC executive vice president. …

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