A vote on the local hiring ordinance has been delayed until January so staff can come up with a way to implement the policy without spending $150,000 on a study about the effects of a local hiring law.
The change was promoted by Council Member Karl Nurse, who said various large cities throughout the U.S. have implemented local hiring practices without paying for a study.
"We are being told there are ways to fashion (the ordinance) with the same (intent) to eliminate the study," Nurse said.
The ordinance will come back to council for a vote on Jan. 10.
With major public projects and their significant budgets in the works, proponents see the local hiring policy as a way to help the local unemployment rate, which is 10.1 percent. That number is higher than state and national averages.
The "Lens," slated to replace the existing St. Petersburg Pier, has a $50 million budget, and the new St. Petersburg Police Headquarters has a $40 million price tag for its first phase.
According to city documents, the city believes the ordinance would help lower local unemployment.
"It is the intent and policy of the City to create career paths for residents and to increase the number of employed residents to attempt to counteract the economic and social ills associated with the high unemployment levels that exist within the City and to attempt to address health and safety concerns associated with the high level of resident commuters. In furtherance of this policy, the City has established a local hiring program to encourage the hiring and retention of residents for work performed under City construction contracts."
Opponents say the law would restrict the candidates that companies could hire since the proposed ordinance requires at least 50 percent of all hours of work performed on construction projects be done by St. Petersburg/Pinellas County residents.
Mayor Bill Foster has previously voiced concerns that the law could hurt local construction businesses because if St. Pete creates an ordinance then other cities might follow suit.
Council chair Leslie Curran, who along with council member Jeff Danner voted no on the ordinance, said the city should be focusing more on apprenticeships rather than just hiring locally. A better trained workforce, Curran said, will mean new jobs.
"I just think this is going about it the wrong way," Curran said of the proposed ordinance. "I don’t just want people being hired in this community to do a city project, I want a trained workforce that will be able to work on any project."
Other aspects of the proposed local hiring ordinance
- All contracts for construction projects shall contain provisions requiring each contractor or subcontractor to make good faith efforts to employ apprentices for at least 20 percent of all work hours performed.
- All contracts for construction projects shall contain provisions requiring each contractor or subcontractor to make good faith efforts to employ disadvantaged workers for at least 20 percent of all work hours performed.
- All contractors bidding on a construction project shall be required to hire and require subcontractors to hire the required percentage of residents