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Prevailing Wage Repeal Saves Ft. Mitchell $75,000 on Road Repairs

The Ft. Mitchell city council thanked the state government on Monday night as it voted to approve repairs for some streets.

In December, the city evaluated bids received for repairs on Allentown Drive, Burdsall Avenue, and Thompson Avenue, and the most attractive option was from Florence-based Len Riegler Blacktop Company, at $897,000. But no contract was signed, and that meant Ft. Mitchell could benefit from a potentially lower cost project after the Kentucky General Assembly swiftly passed a repeal of the state's prevailing wage law during a whirlwind legislative week in Frankfort last month.

Governor Matt Bevin signed the law with an emergency clause, enacting it right away.

Prevailing wage - defined as an hourly wage with benefits and overtime paid to the majority of workers on a public project - was long the target for repeal by Republicans in Frankfort, but with the House of Representatives controlled by labor-sympathetic Democrats, the effort was always stalled. This year, Republicans took over the House for the first time since 1921 and quickly worked to repeal prevailing wage and to make Kentucky a "right-to-work" state.

Conservatives argued that prevailing wage inflates the cost of public projects.

Ft. Mitchell leaders agreed on Monday night, and celebrated the opportunity to put the road project out to bid again, hoping for a lower cost.

"It was clearly defined that if we were under contract with the winning bidder that we weren't allowed (to re-bid), but we had not authorized any contracts," Mayor Jude Hehman said. "It was my responsibility to go back out and bid that."

The result was a lower bid from Straight Edge Construction, based in Brooksville, Ky., at right around $823,000, beating Len Riegler's second bid, which was also lower this time around, at $872,000. "It's public money," Hehman said. "That's $75,000 coming back in (the budget)."

Heman said that he had spoken with State Senator Chris McDaniel, the Taylor Mill Republican who represents Ft. Mitchell and northern Kenton County in Frankfort, as well as Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann, who said that they would be watching to see how the new bids came in as a test for the new law.

"This was a great opportunity for us to test this," Hehman said. "All eyes were on us because we were the first city to go out and test what this prevailing wage meant."

As for the project itself, Allentown Drive and Burdsall Avenue will be worked on this year while Thompson Avenue is repaired next year.

Other notes:

A plan for the city to lease ten parking spaces behind W. Stephens Cabinetry on Dixie Highway to accommodate an apparent growing demand in the business district, was tabled. Council members Kim Nachazel, Jim Hummeldorf, and Greg Pohlgeers pushed back on the cost and the logistics of the plan. The city planned to spend $500 per month for the spaces. City Administrator Sharmili Reddy said that the city's business association has suggested a parking study to evaluate needs and opportunities in the area, as well.

Mayor Heman said that he is not taking a position on the "certificate of need" fight between Christ Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare, as Christ seeks to develop a surgical center at the site of the former Drawbridge Inn. Instead, Hehman said that he wants the best development possible on the site, regardless of the local fight between health care providers. St. Elizabeth has questioned whether there is a need for Christ's project, a situation being evaluated by state officials and the court system.

Reddy stated that the city's park board eliminated one of the three proposals for redevelopment of General Ormsby Park. One of three options included an expensive running track that some residents questioned at a meeting last month because of its high cost. "There was no community support for it," Reddy said. 

Fire Chief Gary Auffart welcomed Frank Santee to the department and said goodbye to retiring fireman Brian Kinslee who spent 20 years with the city.

Police Chief Andrew Schierberg honored Officer Joel Tignor and Specialist Mark Spanyel for their handling of a burglary involving a mentally unstable suspect. "They found the suspect actively in the process of harming himself," Schierberg said. "If it hadn't been for that decision to go in the building and stay in the building, I have no doubt he would have perished in that building."

Schierberg said that the police department's fundraiser at Biggby's Coffee raised $500 for the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky, which would help fund 30 beds for a night.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Top photo: Chief Schierberg honors Officer Tignor and Specialist Spanyel (RCN)

Slideshow Images & Captions: 
Fire Chief Auffart presents Brian Kinslee's helmet on the occasion of the firefighter's retirement (RCN)