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Gary workers demand more from contractors

Updated: January 1, 2013 6:25AM



GARY — It may be too late for residents to stop a nearly completed project in the Glenn Ryan area, but a member of the Gary Fair Share Jobs Project said the group used work stoppages to send a message to other contractors working in the area.

Ron Matlock, a Calumet Township board member and a leader of Fair Share, said contractors on a storm sewer project will meet with the grassroots group to work out ways to get more work for Gary workers and subcontractors.

“Sometimes, it’s a matter of compromise and negotiation,” Matlock said. “I don’t go at them with a bat and say, ‘You’re going to hire someone from here,’ but these contractors need to give some work to Gary people.”

The group is planning to meet with officials from Fuel Truck Maintenance, a Tennessee-based general contractor, local contractors and officials with the Gary Sanitary District, which is overseeing the $1.5 million project, most of which is funded by the federal government.

Dan Vicari, the director of the GSD, was not available for a scheduled interview late Thursday.

Beginning Monday, Gary Fair Share Jobs, which includes Matlock, communications consultant John Key and community activists like Dwight Taylor and Benley Ellis, among others, physically stopped work by standing before equipment before work could get started, Matlock recalled.

At one point, Matlock said a heavy machine operator missed hitting him in the head with the bucket of a large piece of equipment.

After three days, the group backed off and got city officials and the contractors, including A. Metz Construction and a concrete contractor from Illinois, to meet with them Friday. The idea, Matlock said, is to be sure contractors carve out good paying jobs for workers and local companies.

Matlock also criticized GSD and its compliance officers. The city has an ordinance that calls for companies doing business on public works in Gary to hire local workers and contractors for a portion of the work.

In February, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was appointed the special administrator for GSD, heading up the district which is under a consent decree with the federal government. Freeman-Wilson hired Vicari, a former consultant to the district, last summer.

“The city doesn’t like what we’re doing because it says they have not done their jobs,” with compliance oversight, Matlock said. “We’d like for things to go smooth, but when you have qualified people right here in the city, why would you go outside the city to hire people?”



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