Niagara Gazette

January 24, 2014

Capital project's local impact detailed by Falls school officials

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — More than half of the subcontractors providing services for the Niagara Falls City School District’s $67 million capital improvement project are located within a 20-mile radius of the city, the district reported Thursday.

Following a request for the data by board member Johnny Destino, Deputy Superintendent Mark Laurrie said the project, which is in the middle of its first of two major phases, is having significant impacts on the local economy.

“It’s all about helping education for our students,” Laurrie said of the project, which is set to install wireless internet and provide enhanced science and math learning opportunities in each school building. “But it’s also about helping the economy.”

Before voters gave the district permission to spend the money on the project, board members, including Johnny Destino, pushed for officials to do everything possible to help Niagara County — and Niagara Falls, especially — workers.

Destino publicly opposed resolutions hiring contractors from outside the county to plan and develop the scope of the project, directing those responsible for making hiring recommendations to find local firms. He even resisted looking at Erie County businesses for parts of the project.

In response, the district adopted a project labor agreement in order to help the immediate area’s skilled, union laborers who might have lost out on the work the board wanted to see hyper-local firms receive. With the number of these firms working this portion of the project, Destino said it appears at first glance the project is the success he intended.

“It just goes to show we made the right decision,” he said. “Everything seems to be working as intended to benefit the local economy.”

Part of Laurrie’s report Thursday focused on the number of individual workers the project’s brought into the buildings as part of construction. Beginning in May, when work focused on replacing the roof at LaSalle Preparatory, the district has averaged 90 workers per month.

Laurrie’s report didn’t include employees of the district’s primary contractors, nor any inspectors working to ensure quality of work maintained. It did show, though, that a project-high of 130 subcontractor workers helped the project progress in July while August saw 126.

Though the numbers have slipped as students returned to school and weather kicked into frigid territory – November only saw 60 workers – the impact has been significant locally through its first eight months.

“It was a good first high-level view of the economic impact we wanted to see,” Destino said.

“Not only are our kids going to get a first-class complex, but the local economy is being propped up as well,” board President Russell Petrozzi said.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.