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Flint will require contractors to pay union wage to workers removing pipes

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
Prospective contractors listen to a presentation on Flint's plans to remove more lead service lines.

Flint city officials will require contractors pay a prevailing wage to workers who replace the city’s lead service lines.  Though for a time, that wasn’t going to be the case.

Next week, the city of Flint will receive bids on a project to remove up to 500 lead service lines.

When the formal request for proposals went out earlier this month, it contained a provision that workers would receive standard union wages. But Wednesday, city officials proposed an addendum that the prevailing wage would not be applied to this project.

Union leaders and some contractors complained about the change.

“The biggest point in the prevailing wage is it levels the playing fields,” Ben Ranger, with the Michigan Pipe Trades Association, said after the meeting, “So we’re not competing here on how cheap we can pay somebody to fix Flint.”

Several hours after the meeting, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver issued a statement saying prevailing wage will be part of the contracts.    

"Many valid reasons were given on why the prevailing wage provision should stay in place as we proceed with the FAST Start initiative, including the fact that it will result in more consistent labor costs and make sure our local union workers have a fair chance to obtain contracts,” Weaver’s statement read.    

Contractors have until June 16 to submit bids on the project. Once the contracts are let, city officials expect it will take 60 to 90 days to complete. 

The city is focusing on three different parts of the city where there is a likelihood of lead service lines and a sizable at-risk population. 

Service lines are a prime source of lead in Flint’s drinking water.

To date, only 33 service lines have been replaced. 

City officials hope to eventually replace more than 10,000.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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