Forest Lake company’s low bid helped earn it City Center electrical job
Eight to 10 members of the local electrical workers union have taken turns protesting in front of the construction site for the city of Forest Lake’s City Center since before Thanksgiving.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 110 members say the city undermined standard wages and benefits by hiring Vinco Inc. to wire the city hall and public safety facility.
They argue the Forest Lake company’s low bid amount indicates it is not paying workers up to area standards.
The city used the best-value contracting method for bidding the electrical work, meaning bidders were ranked in categories such as proximity and experience, in addition to cost. Vinco’s bid of $1,472,900 was the lowest of seven bids and more than $100,000 less than the next-lowest bid.
“Some of our contractors that bid this have been running work bigger than this for many, many years, and I think the only best value was (that Vinco is) just down the road,” said Local 110 business representative Brad Malm.
City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the city chose not to bid the City Center as a prevailing wage project, for which workers are required to be paid rates comparable to wages paid for similar work in the area.
“When we selected our contractors, we did it based on performance and competitiveness of the contract, and Vinco is very competitive,” Parrish said. “We’re real happy with them on the project. They are a locally based and orientated company, so we’re happy to be able to support a good, solid, local company.”
Brett Baldry, the City Center project manager for construction company Kraus Anderson, said the ratio of union and non-union contractors on site is approximately even.
“It certainly didn’t deter anybody from bidding the project with it being a non-prevailing-wage project, whatsoever,” Baldry said. “I think in every bid category that we got bids, there were at least one or two union bids that came along with them.”
Vinco owner Steve Anderson called Local 110’s protest a publicity ploy.
“We pay a very competitive wage,” he said. “If not, we wouldn’t be able to keep our people.”