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Two Harbors City Council rejects labor ordinance

Two Harbors City Council meeting attendees — mostly union members and union supporters opposing an ordinance that would have repealed wage rates, hour requirements and project labor agreements for city construction projects — wait for the special meeting to start Tuesday, Feb. 20. The ordinance failed by a unanimous vote. (Jimmy Lovrien/Lake County News-Chronicle)

With union members in attendance Tuesday night, the Two Harbors City Council unanimously voted down an ordinance that would have repealed wage rates, hour requirements and project labor agreements for city construction projects.

The action followed the Council's decision to table the second reading of the ordinance at their Feb. 12 meeting after Craig Olson, president of the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council, said the union wouldn't lobby for future Two Harbors construction projects if the Council passed the ordinance. Union members packed into the council chambers that night in opposition of the ordinance.

Between last week's regular meeting and Tuesday's special meeting, members of the Council and union met to sort things out before revisiting the ordinance Tuesday.

"The outcome of that discussion was: We want to work together; we want to go down to St. Paul together," Mayor Chris Swanson said, adding that the union committed to bringing people to the Minnesota State Capitol to advocate for projects in Two Harbors.

"We're going to work together on that," Swanson said.

Swanson had originally expressed support for the ordinance in an effort to lower costs for a proposed $1.7 million streets and alleys repair project slated for 2018. The city will cover half the cost while property owners along the eight streets and alleys would be assessed for the other half.

The ordinance failed in a 0-6 vote, stopping it from progressing further and ensuring the city code will not change. Councilor Craig Jussila was not in attendance.

Had the ordinance passed, it would have repealed a section from the city code that ensures workers receive at least the prevailing wage for city projects costing more than $25,000 and another section requiring project labor agreements — a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor unions that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project — for construction projects estimated at $150,000 or more.

Council discusses 2018 priorities

Although the Council took action on the tabled labor ordinance, Tuesday's special meeting was originally scheduled as a discussion of Council priorities.

City Administrator Dan Walker said the meeting would help the Council and city staff determine what projects to focus on in 2018. He provided a list of "Large Projects/Admin Priorities for 2018" to councilors as a guide.

"The intent of this meeting is so that I can get a little bit of direction on where the council wants to prioritize the energy this year," Walker said.

The Council placed the following priorities on a rough timeline:

1-3 months

• Bring a local option sales tax to the state Legislature

• Establish a work order system

• Submit bonding request to state Legislature for additional bathhouses at the Burlington Bay Campground

3-6 months

• Update assessment policy

• Complete first phase exploring the potential to move the Edna G tugboat onto land

• Establish a commission for waterfront development planning

• Draft projects for the 2019 capital improvement plan

6-12 months

• Determine the future of Lakeview National Golf Course

• Explore potential for a new bandshell in Thomas Owens Park

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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