Legislators Push for Guaranteed Minority Jobs on Major Sewer Project
April 11-18, 2007
By The Hartford News
The Metropolitan District Commission’s upcoming $1.6 billion sewer separation project is designed to improve the water quality of the Greater Hartford region.
But will it also improve the quality of life for local residents – especially those in Hartford – through business for minority contractors and jobs for minority workers?
Legislation proposed by State Senator Eric Coleman and State Representative Art Feltman is designed to make sure it does. The legislation, S.B. 1250, was approved by the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee and must now be approved by the House and Senate. Coleman and Feltman are Co-Chairs of the committee.
The bill provides that “18.75 percent of the small business contracts needed to implement this project be set-aside for minority-owned firms. Furthermore, 25 percent of those employed in the project must be minority persons and 5 percent must be ex-offenders who have completed their probation or parole.”
While such “set-aside” stipulations are often a part of projects which involve government funding, Coleman said that, as far as he knows, this is the the first time that employment for ex-offenders has been included as part of the package.
“I think Senate Bill 1250 is an ambitious initiative because of the myriad of issues confronting poor communities, and communities of color in Hartford, such as high rates of unemployment, the instability of the economy, high crime rates and high incarceration rates,” said Coleman.
Last Thursday, Coleman and Feltman held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building to discuss the bill. Also on hand at the press conference were State Representatives Minnie Gonzalez and Doug McCrory, as well as representatives from the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), the Minority Contractors Council, the NAACP and the African American Alliance.
Both former Mayor Carrie Perry, now Executive Director of the Greater Hartford NAACP, and Clarke King of the African American Alliance expressed reservations about CHRO being selected to oversee implementation of the minority involvement requirements. “I’m a little hesitant about the oversight authority,” said Perry. “I want the NAACP to be involved... This project is too important.”
Perry also said she hopes that enough minority contractors can be found to fill the quota stipulated by the law. “I’d hate for that to be the reason, that they can’t find anyone,” she said.
Coleman said he hoped that this wouldn’t be a problem this time, “I think we’ve heard every excuse that can be imagined. Those excuses are getting old, they’re getting tired. We can assist them [the MDC] in identifying suitable firms.”
For their part, a spokesman for the MDC stated, “The Metropolitan District shares the Legislators’ goal of creating opportunities for all segments of the community. To that end, the MDC Board’s Diversity Committee formed a Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC), which will be an advocate for small minority and women-owned business to ensure sustained success, maximize job creation and placement opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers, and to ensure compliance with hiring goals.”
MDC Commissioner and SAC member Adam Cloud added, “We are absolutely committed to the maximum involvement of small, minority and women’s businesses.”
The sewer project includes reduction of combined sewer overflows with the Hartford Central Sewer System, and elimination of sanitary sewer overflows in the sanitary sewers of Wethersfield, West Hartford, Windsor, Rocky Hill and Newington.