MDC Discusses Employment Prospects for Major Project with Neighborhood Group
BY ANDY HART
February 19, 2009
Close to 100 people jammed into last Thursday’s meeting of the Maple Avenue Revitalization Group (MARG) but it was Democratic Town Committee Chairman Sean Arena who asked the question that was on almost everyone’s mind.
After listening to officials from the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) describe the organization’s massive, $1.6 billion Clean Water Project, Arena asked, “Do you have an estimate of the number of jobs the project will provide for Hartford residents?”
“No, we can’t answer that right now,” responded MDC Deputy CEO Robert Moore.
MDC Board Chairman William DiBella further dampened hopes that the project would provide a significant influx of jobs for Hartford when he said, “I don’t think more than 200 people will be working on this project at any one time...You have to understand, the days of the pick and shovel don’t exist anymore. Much of the work will be done by heavy equipment...Infrastructure work does produce jobs, but there won’t be near the number of jobs there would have been 10 or 15 years ago.”
But Steve Harris of the African American Alliance, which has led the fight to secure jobs on the Clean Water Project for minorities and city residents, disagrees. “I can’t imagine how they’re going to do all this work and spend all this money and still not provide that many jobs. I’m sorry, I find that hard to believe.”
The AAA has been at odds with the MDC over the Clean Water Project almost since the initiative was announced. “They [the MDC] keep throwing barriers in the way. Maybe they think we’ll get tired and give up. But we’re not giving up...we’re going to press this all the way to the White House if we have to.”
In 2007, the AAA helped set up the Connecticut Training Academy (CTA), which trains people to get their P-6 license, which they were told would be required for many of the Clean Water Project jobs.
Last summer, the legislature required that MDC invest $200,000 in a training program for people who want to work on the Clean Water Act. At Thursday’s meeting, Moore said the Request For Proposals (RFP) for the training program was sent out in December but would have to be done again because two of the bids were late and one was incomplete.
CTA President Michelle Brown said her program was the one which was rejected as incomplete, but she has appealed the decision.
Brown said the MDC raised several issues with her program’s bid, but these issue could have been worked out without rejecting the bid. “All our instructors are licensed by the State, we have a training facility, we’ve placed all our graduates...the bottom line is they just didn’t want to use us,” said Brown.