Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | A split Irvine City Council Tuesday night signed off on an ordinance that extends prevailing wages to all city projects.

Council voted along predictable lines, with the Democratic majority voting for the ordinance and Republicans Jeff Lalloway and Steven Choi voting no. Union workers in attendance cheered the vote.

The new ordinance repeals one adopted in 1998 that exempted the city from the state’s prevailing wage law, which requires bidders on public projects to use wages set by the state.

The estimated cost impact for fiscal year 2011-12 is between $569,000 and $962,000, according to a city staff report. The report also notes, however, that the future cost impacts are difficult to predict because of, among other reasons, the uncertainty of future economic conditions.

Also, the overall impact is less because projects at the Great Park are already subject to prevailing wages, and some city projects implement living wages.

Lalloway assailed the ordinance from the dais, but also made it clear that he didn’t want his stance on the issue to threaten the relative peace that has remained on council since Lalloway replaced former Republican Councilwoman Christina Shea, who was often embroiled in bitter wars with the Democratic majority.

“Hopefully, colleagues, I think you’d all agree that I didn’t come here to pick fights,” Lalloway said. “But I do need to raise my voice when I believe there is bad legislation proposed.”

Lalloway argued that the move “doesn’t make sense” because the city is operating with, he said, an “approximate $18 million deficit.” The city can’t afford to take on an additional cost of nearly $1 million per year, Lalloway said.

“I’ve repeatedly asked the following question: why? And I’ve also asked, why now?” Lalloway said. “I’ve not received an answer to either question.”

Democratic Councilman Larry Agran argued that public projects are done at higher quality when prevailing wages are required.

“There won’t be competition to drive down the wages with phantom savings of some dollars that end up costing you more in the end,” Agran said.

Agran pointed to the installation of the helium balloon project at the Great Park as an example of that was not a prevailing wage project, but nonetheless had “several hundred thousand dollars” in additional costs that were in dispute.

The prevailing wage ordinance comes back for a final vote on May 10, according to city Public Information Officer Craig Reem, and then becomes effective 30 days later.

In other Council action:

Great Park Citrus Trees Donation

Council approved a plan for the Great Park to donate between 1,500 and 2,000 trees to not-for-profit groups.

The trees have produced six tons of oranges this past growing season that were donated to local food banks, according to a city staff report. The donation of the trees will allow food banks to continue to take advantage of their harvest, according to the report. New homes for the trees will also allow them to be used in educational programs, the report said.

Community Development Block Grant Action Plan

City Council approved an action plan for the fiscal year 2011-12 Community Development Block Grant program, federal money cities receive each year for local use. However, there were a few changes.

Council approved the transfer of $14,698 from an allocation for the Irvine Unified School District’s family case management and counseling services to fund Laura’s House, a domestic violence shelter, and Jewish Family Service of Orange County,

Also, a total of $209,141 was moved from the Irvine Community Land Trust and the school district’s allocation for a high school pool rehabilitation to the Stonegate affordable housing project. With the additional money, the total grant money allocated for the project is $617,500

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