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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Condon proposes panel to discuss jobs training

With $500 million of public works projects scheduled during the next five years, Spokane Mayor David Condon has a plan to create a qualified local workforce to help in construction.

Condon announced Monday his idea to convene a group to discuss how best to train workers for construction careers, which he said will help raise Spokane’s depressed median income to national standards. The group will consist of veterans, people with disabilities, women, minorities, people with criminal records and young people, as well as contractors and union and business representatives, according to the mayor’s spokesman, Brian Coddington.

The plan is in response to an ordinance passed last month by the City Council mandating that a certain amount of work on public works construction projects be performed by apprentices. Condon called the ordinance, which was put forth by Council President Ben Stuckart, “a good first step.”

“The jobs plan takes the next step,” he said.

Stuckart said he wasn’t informed of Condon’s jobs plan until it was announced at a news event Monday.

Condon said he will have specific proposals for how to “recruit, train and employ … a deeper and more qualified workforce” by July 1, when Stuckart’s apprenticeship rule will require that public works projects over $350,000 use apprentices for up to 5 percent of labor hours. In 2016, the requirement jumps to 10 percent, and to 15 percent the following year.

The bulk of the work in the next five years will be done as part of the city’s $310 million Integrated Clean Water Plan, a massive rebuilding of the city’s sewer infrastructure. Other upcoming projects include the $60 million renovation of Riverfront Park and the beginning of the 20-year street levy, both recently passed by voters.

The day the council voted on the ordinance, Condon sent a letter to Stuckart asking him to postpone the vote so the city could create an implementation policy, “refine” the current ordinance and develop a job description for the compliance officer to oversee the apprentice program.

In Stuckart’s ordinance, the compliance officer was housed in the utilities department, which is leading the vast majority of public works projects at the city.

Condon and Rick Romero, the utilities chief, argued against this, saying it was too burdensome for an already busy department. Romero said having a compliance officer in his department put him in a tough position because he and his staff often work closely with contractors.

In Condon’s jobs plan, the officer would be in the city’s finance department under Jennifer Stapleton, the city’s grants manager. Stapleton told council members Monday she approved of the idea because she already dealt with many compliance issues with grants.

Stuckart suggested he wouldn’t fight the move, noting that the council sets policy and the mayor’s administration executes it.

Both Condon and Stuckart said one of their primary goals with their respective efforts was to raise the area’s median income, which is about 70 percent of the statewide average and 78 percent of the national average. 

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