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Building Trades Stress Importance of Local Hire on Final Phases of Toledo Waterways Initiative

TWI workers

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As the City of Toledo moves forward with a new sewer project, community and labor leaders are calling for the use of local labor to maximize the positive economic impact on the region.

Known as the Toledo Waterways Initiative (TWI), the $520 million project is the result of a deal the city made with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2002.  One of the final parts of the project, a 36 million gallon sewage retention basin, has yet to be contracted.  During a Committee of the Whole meeting last week local leaders asked that all steps be taken to ensure local labor is used on the retention basin and the other six unfinised aspects of the TWI.

David Fleetwood, Business Manager of Laborers’ Local 500, called the project, “A great opportunity to engage the community, and put the community back to work.” Community activist Bernard “Pete” Culp added, “Creating jobs for our local people will help eliminate blight and crime.”

Small rate increases, spread out until the year 2020, will help pay for the project’s completion. Each customer will pay $13 more each year for the next six years.  This is yet another argument in favor of local hire: If the local community is going to pay for the upgrades, it should benefit, too.  

Apart from cost, there is a sense of ethical responsibility attached to the project, which would cut untreated sewage making its way into Lake Erie and other waterways by 80 percent. As Councilwoman Lindsay Webb told ABC13, it is only fair for the city to make these changes given the developments in neighboring towns:

“How can we look to our farmers up river and safe stop the practices that are sending nitrates down the river when we ourselves are contributing to it?”

Resident Gary Miller agreed, telling ABC13:

“Whatever it takes, has go to be done. It doesn’t bother me a bit the sewer rates are going up. I support it 100-percent.”

Better yet, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins says TWI represents “windows of opportunity” for minorities to begin careers in the building trades.  Local hire would mean all-important apprenticeship opportunities for local workers.

“You can’t snap your fingers and make a plumber,” he said. “You can’t snap your fingers and make an electrician.”


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