by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Sometimes, when it's necessary, the Niagara Falls City School District is going to hire a firm from outside Niagara County to work on its $67 million capital improvement project.
Assistant Superintendent Mark Laurrie said the district hired Pittsford firm Seeler Engineering to study the possible economic and non-economic benefits a collective project labor agreement would bring the district concerning the completion of its Inventing Tomorrow initiative.
"We looked for a local company, but we were unable to find one that provided these services," Laurrie said. "We also looked at cost as a factor and this company already has experience locally with the Culinary Arts Center."
This marks the second contract awarded to a non-Niagara County contractor for the project, following a land surveying contract awarded to Pulaski firm Bolton Land Surveying in December.
School board member Johnny Destino didn't like seeing another contract heading out of the area and cast the lone no vote when it was approved in an 8-1 decision Thursday.
"Once again, we have a contract going to a company outside of Niagara County," Destino said. "When we set out, we said we wanted this project to not only benefit the student and staff but also the community. The district needs to understand going out of the area costs more money."
Seeler's contract calls for the district to pay up to $10,000 for the report, will provide the district with a list it'll use to create a project-wide agreement all awarded contractors would need to adhere to throughout the project's duration.
If the district likes what Seeler reports, school district attorney Angelo Massaro said the project labor agreement, a collective bargaining agreement covering all aspects of a specific project, would allow both union and non-union contractors to bid on any portion of the project while regulating issues like schedules and ensures work is completed, even if there's larger-scale labor issues.
"It helps when one labor unit has a two hour show-up window while another has a two-and-a-half hour window," Massaro said. "It also helps the district avoid any jurisdictional disputes and avoids any differences in contract periods. And if there's a shut down in the industry, this would ensure us there's not a shut down of this project."
Seeler's report is expected within a week to 10 days time, while the project labor agreement could be approved by the school board as early as a special board meeting called for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7. The special meeting will be held in the district's board meeting room in the district office, 630 66th St.