Scott County Republicans vote against prevailing wages for ARPA funded Juvenile Detention Center Expansion

Jul 14, 2022

Gavin Gassmann

SCOTT COUNTY IOWA – The Republican-dominated Scott County board of supervisors has voted to potentially violate the Davis-Bacon Act which requires contractors on federally funded projects to pay workers at least a certain wage and benefits determined by the Department of Labor, a "Prevailing Wage".

This fiscally irresponsible and backwards decision puts the Scott County at risk of a law suit should they follow through with violating the law by selecting a contractor who pays below the prevailing wage.

Pastor Rudy of Davenport's St. Anthony Parish speaking against the Juvenile Detention Center expansion at a rally of essential workers

Pastor Rudy of Davenport's St. Anthony Parish speaking against the Juvenile Detention Center expansion at a rally of essential workers

Scott County Assistant Attorney Robert Cusack advised the board that per an Iowa Supreme court ruling in 1993, non-federally funded projects in Iowa require counties to award contracts to the lowest responsible bidder, and that requiring paying a prevailing wage is not permitted to disqualify contactors.

A nonprofit labor advocacy organization, the Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, sent a letter to Scott County Supervisors calling Cusack's reasoning flawed.

ARPA funds come from a federal stimulus bill to aid public health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, this Iowa Supreme Court ruling is irrelevant. Despite the faulty logic from assistant attorney Cusack, this was sufficient excuse for the board to vote against a prevailing wage for the project along party lines, 3 to 2.

Prevailing wage should be paid on federally funded projects in Iowa and across the nation. Research continues to show that prevailing wage supports local contractors, workers, and keeps more tax dollars in the local community. - Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting

The Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting describes itself as a "non-profit construction industry established to increase market share for responsible contractors." The III FFC, "enhances the job market for responsible contractors and ensures the fair payment of wages to employees, keeping a level playing field available to all."

There is no community support for this oversized jail expansion. It is vigorously opposed by community organizations such as Quad Cities Interfaith which collaborated with Democratic County Supervisor Ken Croken to put forward an amendment to the ARPA funding plan to instead take the $7.2 million allocated for a new juvenile detention center to instead be allocated for premium pay for essential workers. At the March 17th Scott County Supervisors meeting this was rejected by 4-1 vote, with Democratic Supervisor Kinzer voting with the Republicans.

Supervisor Croken speaking at a rally led by Quad Cities interfaith

Supervisor Croken speaking at a rally led by Quad Cities interfaith

It is also opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, who sent a letter warning the Board of legal consequences to misuse of funds, and the Scott County NAACP, which highlighted the extreme racial disparities in Scott County's youth prison system.

Scott County Board has failed the county in their duty to prevent costly lawsuits and has failed in their duty to support the economic growth of the community.

Three Scott County Board seats are up for election this November, with Ken Croken retiring and Democrat Kinzer and Republican John Maxwell's terms ending.

The two non-incumbent Democrats running for seats, Jazmin Newton and Joe Miller, have stated opposition the oversized expansion plan at a bilingual Scott County Supervisor candidates forum - while noting that their hands may become tied by the current board creating contractual obligations. They certainly will be if the current board continues this financially irresponsible rampage.

The Edna Griffin School for Social Justice is opposed to the planned expansion to the Juvenile Detention Center, which we believe would burden the community with an oversized jail, would misuse ARPA funding, and if the expanded capacity was fully utilized, would increase the disproportionately black youth imprisonment from 16 to 64 children.

Should the project proceed, we are committed to ensuring that workers on the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center expansion project retain their right to prevailing wages and benefits as defined by the Davis-Bacon Act.

Poster informing workers of their Davis-Bacon Act rights

Poster informing workers of their Davis-Bacon Act rights

The Scott County Board meeting can be viewed online. Click here to watch the Scott County Board meeting

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