Centre County Commissioners approve controversial new 'Responsible Contractor Ordinance'
After vigorous public debate, the Centre County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of a new “responsible contractor ordinance” at its offices in Bellefonte yesterday. Before the vote, 30 speakers took the podium to share their thoughts.
Currently, for projects requiring contractors, the county must accept the lowest “responsible and responsive” bidder.
Supporters of the ordinance said it defines “responsible” better, laying out safety and quality standards potential contractors must meet to bid on county government projects over $250,000.
The ordinance excludes contractors who have defaulted on a project in the past three years or have been convicted of a crime in the past 10 years.
It requires contractors to ensure at least 70% of its workforce has completed or is currently enrolled in a journeyperson apprenticeship program. In addition, the ordinance will add new safety standards, largely as a reaction to recent worker accidents in the county, Commissioner Mark Higgins said.
“That’s a fact. Five people have perished in Centre County in the past five years on the job,” Higgins said.
He named the workers as Corey Eicher of Bellefonte, Adam Kanouff of Curwensville, Pennsylvania, Anthony Laterzo of Hawk Run, Pennsylvania, Alexzander Fries of Weedville, Pennsylvania, and Joshua Farkas of Westminster, Maryland.
Several union representatives and local community members spoke in favor of the ordinance.
But many local non-union contractors and others spoke out against it. Republican Commissioner Steven Dershem claimed the ordinance is restrictive and favors union workers.
“But that’s why I’m going to stop calling this the ‘Responsible Contractor Ordinance’ and start calling it the ‘Restrictive Contractor Ordinance’ because that’s what this truly is today,” Dershem said.
Many opponents cited their agreements with certain sections of the ordinance, especially concerning safety. However, they sought to table the bill for further discussion and adjustments.
Higgins and fellow Democratic Commissioner Amber Concepcion’s two votes for the ordinance overrode Dershem’s vote against it. The new ordinance will go into effect on July 27.