Ann Arbor City Council met March 7 to contract the E.T. Mackenzie Company for the Third & Mosley Water Main and Resurfacing Project. The $1.3 million contract involves resurfacing and replacing underground water mains on two streets: Mosley Street and Third Street, between Madison Street and Main Street on the Old West Side.
The resolution was tabled at the Feb. 22 Council meeting because of worker safety concerns and allegations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations at E.T. Mackenzie. Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, began Monday’s discussion of the resolution by proposing an amendment that would contract Bailey Excavating rather than E.T. Mackenzie.
“I expect quality work on infrastructure projects in Ann Arbor, ideally from contractors who hire local workers, prioritize employee training and who understand that worker safety must be paramount in construction projects,” Radina said.
Radina said participation in registered apprenticeship programs — which connect qualified job seekers to potential employers — is extremely important for contractors. He said Bailey Excavating participates in a registered apprenticeship program, while E.T. Mackenzie was not aware of the existence of apprenticeship programs.
“Because of this and a comparison of safety records and local workforce, I believe it is in the best interest of the city to award this contract to Bailey Excavating,” Radina said.
Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, expressed her support for the amendment. She agreed with Radina about the importance of a registered apprenticeship program.
“It is my opinion that, all things being relatively equal in terms of cost, a contractor who — instead of taking extra money as profit — turns around and invests it in the training of its workers, is really important,” Eyer said.
Eyer said she believes the city should contract a company that has a large local workforce.
“It is important for me to prioritize a contractor that has 20% of its workforce in (Washtenaw County) so that we’re keeping those dollars, those investments in the County with local people, and that money goes back into our local economy and our local schools,” Eyer said.
Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, opposed the amendment, saying Bailey Excavating had six OSHA violations in the past five years despite checking a box on their bid package that indicated they had no OSHA violations. A copy of an email detailing the OSHA allegations was shared with The Michigan Daily.
“I’m going to go with what (city) staff recommended, and I’m not going to support this amendment to award it to a different person because from what I’ve seen, they checked the wrong box,” Hayner said.
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, concurred with Hayner’s concerns and brought up an email she had received earlier in the evening that she said showed proof of Bailey’s OSHA violations.
Griswold raised concerns about whether the council could legally vote on the issue without knowing if the bid documents were falsified. She called on the council to discuss the matter further with lawyers in a closed session.
The council voted against going into a closed session, with Griswold and Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, being the sole councilmembers to vote in favor of the motion.
After further discussion, the amendment passed with Councilmembers Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, Linh Song, D-Ward 2, Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, Radina, Eyer and Mayor Christopher Taylor voting in favor of it and Councilmembers Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, Ramlawi, Hayner and Griswold opposed.
Following the vote, Griswold once again raised legal concerns about the email she received earlier in the evening. She said if Bailey was lying about their OSHA violations in their forms, voting in favor of contracting them would make the council complicit in corruption.
“This is corruption, I don’t know how else to explain it,” Griswold said. “If this was going on in Detroit, they would be investigated, the FBI would be there. But since it’s lily-white Ann Arbor, we can do this in daylight.”
Ramlawi also expressed disappointment in the council’s decision to pass the amendment.
“Whatever the council think they scored in changing the direction of this contract, they have, by an exponential number, damaged the reputation of this city, of this staff and the contractors that do work here,” Ramlawi said.
Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, said the council is creating problems by making misconduct accusations every time there is a disagreement.
“When we disagree about policy, it would be beneficial to us as a body, to the city, to the community, if we can do so without making accusations about corruption or anything else of that nature,” Grand said.
The resolution ultimately passed.
Daily Staff Reporter Audrey Clayton can be reached at email@example.com.