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Despite unpaid bills, Fairfield mayor vows to stick with Rauner

Thursday, Oct 29, 2015

* Keep in mind when reading this that payroll is about 25 percent or so of construction costs. But some of the smaller projects that these tiny towns do (Fairfield’s population is 5,421) have higher payroll costs.

From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

The mayor of a southern Illinois community says taxpayers could save upwards to 30 percent on construction projects if his village was able to put out projects to be competitively bid. Fairfield Mayor Chuck Griswold says he’s done a lot of things to double reserves for the village, but more could be done like saving on publicly funded construction projects by circumventing the state mandated prevailing wage laws. Leading Democrats in the General Assembly, like Speaker Michael Madigan, say they are unwilling to allow giving the option of opting out of prevailing wage to local communities like Fairfield. Griswold says Madigan is out of touch.

“He doesn’t understand. We’re not even on his radar, candidly, down here in southern Illinois and I think the only time we got on the radar was when we wanted fracking rules put in place.”

However, Griswold doesn’t think certain collective bargaining issues are onerous for his village at the moment. Governor Bruce Rauner has been pushing for a property tax freeze coupled with giving local communities the option to opt out of prevailing wage and collective bargaining issues, something leading Democrats contend will lower the standard of living for working class families.

Meanwhile Griswold says the state owes Fairfield upwards to $30,000 in unpaid bills for several different facilities being used by state departments. Griswold says he supports what the Governor is doing and will keep accepting IOUs in the meantime.

“We’ll allow them to not pay their utilities, we’ll keep their utilities on. We won’t shut off the state garage. I think we have an IDNR office here and a Conservation office and we’re not going to shut off their utilities. We’re going to support Governor Rauner by hanging in there with him.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - unspun - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 10:47 am:

    Thanks again to the IPI, who should change their acronym to EIC (enabler-in-chief) for bringing us the story from a single mayor (one of about 1% of towns that supported Rauner’s right-to-work fiasco). Their cherry-picking skills are quite polished, indeed.

  2. - Commander Norton - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 10:52 am:

    “I think the only time we got on [Madigan’s] radar was when we wanted fracking rules put in place.”

    And they got them, too…

  3. - Frenchie Mendoza - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 10:54 am:

    Clearly, a representative sample.

    Proof that the majority of Illinoisans support Rauner’s common-sense reforms.

    What more do you need?

  4. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 10:55 am:

    – several different facilities used by state departments–

    LOL, and I’m quite certain that Mayor Griswold wants those “several” state departments and their payrolls to remain in his town of 5,400.

    So…. we’re with you, boss.

    Geez, with that kind of dependence on the state executive branch, what do you expect him to say?

  5. - Joe M - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:06 am:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong. But wouldn’t a government body have to forgo any federal funding it they didn’t follow prevailing wage laws?

    “The Davis-Bacon Act requires that all contractors and subcontractors performing on federal contracts (and contractors or subcontractors performing on federally assisted contracts under the related Acts) in excess of $2,000 pay their laborers and mechanics not less than the prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits listed in the contract’s Davis-Bacon wage determination for corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on similar projects in the area. Davis-Bacon labor standards clauses must be included in covered contracts.”

    And hasn’t Rauner recently said he is no longer requiring throwing out prevailing wages as part of his turnaround agenda? Its hard to remember since his turnaround agenda is such a moving target.

  6. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:07 am:

    ===But wouldn’t a government body have to forgo any federal funding it they didn’t follow prevailing wage laws===

    Not all projects are federally funded.

  7. - The Way I See It - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:07 am:

    Maybe this can be the new version of all the little towns that passed the Right to Work resolutions … it will be called the “We Won’t Shut the Water Off Tour”

    Supportin’ the Governor one running faucet at a time …

  8. - Metro East Transplant - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:08 am:

    Wonder if he’s up in ‘17 and looking for a slice of the pie?

  9. - Honeybear - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:11 am:

    I’m sure Gen. Rauner will take Galipoli in no time. Just have your townspeople ready to charge the enemy at the appointed time.

  10. - Anonin' - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    Capt Fax
    recent pop. for Fairfield 5112 (2013) They have 12 cops. Guessin’ they don’t do enough construction to save enough to even make up loss from tax freeze
    Sorta like your roundin’ error example.

  11. - PublicServant - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:26 am:

    “…save upwards to 30%”? Did they mayor provide any examples, or are we just supposed to take his word on it? Because I’m seriously leanin’ towards callin’ horse hockey here.

  12. - Gruntled University Employee - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:28 am:

    In a former life I was a Union Construction Contractor, I’ve heard all of the arguments about prevailing wage costing the end user more and they’re just not true. How do I know? I used to successfully compete for public and private work in the Great Bastion of RTW known as Indiana. When I missed a project it was rarely by more than 3-4% yet my Rat counterparts paid their employees as much as 50% less in wages and benefits. RTW doesn’t save the end user any money, all it does is line the pockets of greedy business owners, you know, Rauner’s base. Bruce Rauner believes that he and his ilk are the Ruling Class, the rest of us are the Working Class.

  13. - Apocalypse Now - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:33 am:

    Got to love all this folks opposed the allowing nonunion labor or the elimination of the prevailing wage, etc. They all say the state will go to hell in a hand basket. I would expect almost everyone one of them lives in a very nice well built home, condo, or apartment built without union labor. The home construction business hasn’t been a union shop for decades and the housing market seems to do just fine, except for the people leaving the state.

  14. - Ghost - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    um he can competively bid those projects….

    those construction workers buy gas and food in his community while working etc. and who wants building and roads assembled by the cheapest unskilled workers you can find? in fact this change, in small communities screams hiring ofnillegal immigrants.

    one of the ways to avoid hiring illegal immigrants on these small projects in more remote areas is by having prevailing wage.

  15. - whatever - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 11:46 am:

    If you dont want to enable ipi, don’t print their stuff, dont call it a news service, don’t comment on it, and ignore the former Uline office supply salesman known as Tillman.

  16. - Blue dog dem - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    If the mayor really wants to save some bucks, he can just pay these contractors CASH . This would reall y pad the old coffers.

  17. - 1776 - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:06 pm:

    It would be interesting if Democrat Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder would threaten to shut off electricity and water to state facilities. Springfield has a municipally owned electric generation so businesses and residents cannot competitively shop on the market. Would be an interesting pressure point.

  18. - Captain Illini - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:08 pm:

    Hmmm…so that’s where Randy Quaid ended up - Mayor of Fairfield…

  19. - Arizona Bob - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:17 pm:

    Rich, that 25% of costs for labor is for a very limited number of projects, and doesn’t reflect all public work. That number is probably right for most road work, but is way low for building work especially for renovations.

    For example, lighting and room renovation work in schools is much more labor intensive and often labor costs run 50-80% of the cost. Drywall, studs, wire, and light fixtures don’t cost that much.

    It’s also pretty high for plumbing work.

    Major highway work in Illinois would almost exclusively be done by union shops anyway, as large non-union construction companies don’t exist there.

    It’s been my experience that cost savings will be low unless the bidding agency is very honest an vigilant in fair bidding. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in many schools, municipalities and counties in Illinois.

    You’d be amazed how hard they work to exclude low bidders and hire the far higher priced politically connected contractors.

    The rally fair thing would be to let the local governmental body bidding the work decide if they want to follow prevailing wage or not.

    It’s always interesting to note that advocates for prevailing wage often use the claim that it doesn’t save money. Well, if it doesn’t, why not free the bidders from the requirements? Or is it the government’s business to decide how much of the tax dollars paid go to union pockets? That certainly isn’t “serving the people”.

  20. - Flynn's Mom - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:24 pm:

    Speaking of unpaid bills, where are BVR and the superstars with the JRTC janitorial contract? Come Monday do people have to bring their own cleaning supplies?

  21. - Stones - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:27 pm:

    So he’s shorting his own citizens by not collecting unpaid bills that they are entitled to so that he can support the Governor’s agenda? Shameful.

  22. - Unspun - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:33 pm:


    I didn’t call it a news service. The article did. My omission was intentional. I didn’t call attention to IPI, the article did. Even if I did call attention to IPI, didn’t you do the same by pointing it out?

  23. - Curmudgeon - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:34 pm:

    I don’t know whether current/recent construction projects in Fairfield were subject to State or Federal Prevailing Wage rules.

    A number of years back, I was personally involved in Federally-funded water projects in Fairfield. The Federal “Prevailing” wage rates required bore no resemblance to actual union wage rates in rural Southern Ilinois.

    My guess is that the Feds were basing their rates on construction trade contracts in the St. Louis Metro East area.

  24. - Are Ya Kiddin' Me? - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:38 pm:

    Meanwhile Griswold says the state owes Fairfield upwards to $30,000 in unpaid bills for several different facilities being used by state departments. Griswold says he supports what the Governor is doing and will keep accepting IOUs in the meantime.

    “We’ll allow them to not pay their utilities, we’ll keep their utilities on. We won’t shut off the state garage. I think we have an IDNR office here and a Conservation office and we’re not going to shut off their utilities. We’re going to support Governor Rauner by hanging in there with “We’ll allow them to not pay their utilities, we’ll keep their utilities on. We won’t shut off the state garage. I think we have an IDNR office here and a Conservation office and we’re not going to shut off their utilities. We’re going to support Governor Rauner by hanging in there with him.”

    I wonder what the mayor’s taxpaying voting citizens will say if they can’t pay their utilities because I heap funding was cut?
    Will he carry his citizens if they have problems paying?
    Will somebody sue because of unequal treatment?

  25. - Blue dog dem - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:41 pm:

    -Arizona Bob- respectfully disagree with your assertion that prevailing wage mandates Union participation. This is not the case.

  26. - Been There - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    ===I would expect almost everyone one of them lives in a very nice well built home, condo, or apartment built without union labor. The home construction business hasn’t been a union shop for decades and the housing market seems to do just fine,===
    I don’t know where you live but many of the homes built around us still have union labor. I even used a union shop to put an addition on my house and it was cheaper than the self employed guy in the neighborhood. Union shops may pay higher wages but they are usually much more efficient and productive which makes up the difference.
    Anyways, this town is from a county that voted for Alan Keyes back in the days. So this is what can you expect from this mayor.

  27. - Arizona Bob - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 1:12 pm:

    @blue dog dem

    =Arizona Bob- respectfully disagree with your assertion that prevailing wage mandates Union participation. This is not the case.=

    I never claimed that, blue. What mandates union membership is Davis Bacon and PLAs, at least on Federal work.

    What prevailing wage does is often make labor costs increase far above market rates for a given company.

    For example, if a non-union firm pays its electricians $25/hour for commercial work and gets a public contract in Illinois, they need to pay the same workers with the same skills $44/hr JUST WHEN THEY’RE WORKING ON PUBLIC PROJECTS!

    That’s perhaps the worst case of waste and abuse in Illinois government.

    Even at the higher rates, however, non-union firms do have an advantage. They aren’t restricted by wasteful featherbedding union work rules. I’m not talking about job safety issues. Those are mandated by OSHA. I’m talking about things like unskilled laborers having to belong to certain unions even to clean up.

    For example, in a union shop, a plumbing laborer can’t bring conduits or wire to an electrician, so often you need several people there to do the job of one because of union conflicts.

    Some unions also have had productivity limits, like at one time union masons would only be able to place so many masonry units in an 8 hour shift.

    If you were a go-getter and did the work more quickly, you could get into trouble with the union.

    All this stuff adds up for local governments with limited assets.

    I won’t even go into the ways taxpayers are often cheated through overpriced change orders to politically connected firms, and work broken up into $50K “no bid” packages to avoid bidding the work.

    Technically that’s not legal, but no one really enforces that.

    There’s a lot of public construction that’s a real cesspool….

  28. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 1:36 pm:

    “Hey, Mayor Griswold. Those are some nice state facilities you got there empolying townspeople and buying water and such. It would be a shame if something happened to them…”

    “Uh, yeah. It sure would.”

    “Ya know, I got a little favor to ask…”

  29. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 1:40 pm:

    You wanna find a quick $30k, close the Fairfield State Garage. It’s been losing money since Walker was Governor.

  30. - Buzzie - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 1:56 pm:

    Whistling past the graveyard.

  31. - Huh? - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 1:59 pm:

    Sorry AZ Bob, the Davis Bacon Act does not mandate union membership. As a matter of fact, the word “union” does not appear in the text of the law.

    The act requires a contractor to pay the prevailing wage for public projects that are contracted out and are federally funded. That is all. There is nothing about union membership.

    If Fairfield wants to get around the prevailing wage law, the work must be done by their own forces. The catch is publicly funded projects that are contracted out.

  32. - blue dog dem - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 2:42 pm:

    -AB. I am an advocate for minimum wage and prevailing wage.I believe certified payroll a mandatory Requirement on all govt contracts. When I buy products ,they seem to always be union made.I nor my wife have ever been in a union.I do see first hand how union participation is almost always done by locals.this has a tremendous ripple effect on economic activity and tax bases.I would much rather see this “artificial” effect on the states economy than EDGE tax credits,TIF’s,and govt subsidies to corporate Amaerica.

  33. - Shemp - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 3:03 pm:

    30% higher costs might be a tad high, but not by much. It is kind of hard to have actual data to give you all when there is no point in getting bids that aren’t prevailing wages. But yes, if you do work or a private-public partnership, a contractor will ask if it is prevailing wage project and warn you of the markup, and yes, 25% is a number I hear a lot. When you are a city or county of 5,000, 15,000 or even 50,000, that adds up in a hurry. That is 25% fewer road projects when the markup is 25%.

    And I will shout it from the mountaintop til it gets through everyone’s head, but the determination (is it a calculation?) of prevailing wage rates are the biggest mystery to local governments. The State will tell you tehy are set locally, but the fact is IDOL publishes them, and then locals have to adopt them as published by IDOL. Then IDOL and willfully ignorant State elected officials will say, “the prevailing wage rates are set locally.” Biggest joke in Illinois government local governments have to deal with.

    And to everyone who says, just bid it out… Illinois has made it so difficult, a lot of the smaller companies have folded up or sold out to bigger groups reducing the competition. Pretty tough to get low bids when all you get are two bids to run a sanitary line and rebuild a couple blocks of road. On a good day, you get 3 bids in this area. But hey, what do I know?

  34. - blue dog dem - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 3:31 pm:

    Shemp.cant say in my experience.I have seen those pet peeve,local govts should be allowed to select local vendors id they want. Why shouldnt locals keep tax dollars close to home despite bid.heck, thereare hundreds of mexican and korean companies that would win every bid if allowed. Do you think that is a good idea?

  35. - Critical thinker from down in the sticks - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 4:31 pm:

    As an elected official one should try to get the best deal for the taxpayer. The prevailing wage law is nothing more than the state leveling out the playing field for union contractors. There are plenty of middle class Illinoisans who would be able to afford to bid competitively if it were not for the high cost of labor on construction projects. But because of the prevailing wage law drives up the cost most of these people who are capable of doing the work are unable to secure the bonding they need to secure the work. In my opinion prevailing wage keeps the upper class secure in there spot with out any direct competition from people who want to become contractors.

  36. - Mitch1959 - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 4:40 pm:

    Okay Clark, you should know what state offices you have in your small village! Keep taking the I O U’s I am sure it will show up like my BACKPAY from 2011!

  37. - Southern Illinois Hoopdee - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 6:39 pm:

    The problem with abolishing prevailing wage in the sticks is that a lot of the best paying jobs are the ones with prevailing wage in construction down here. You abolish prevailing wage, you just take money out of the hands of those who spend it and put it in the hands of the few who are more likely to spend the money in places other than the sticks. In accounting terms, it’s a money outflow. Mayor Owl there needs to realize that if he’s hooting for the Rauner, he’s hooting for the Chicago private equity crowd over his own constituents in downstate Fairfield, which is not the most incredibly well to do place last I checked.

    Do mayors own too? Yes they do! lol

  38. - Blue dog dem - Thursday, Oct 29, 15 @ 10:03 pm:

    Critical– really, lowest price. I referenced earlier. If you advertised govt bids in Mexican,Korean,Vietnamese… Newspapers you will find really low bids. No work conditions,pays scale,insurance requirements,tax consequences….period.good enough for you?

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