With a local contractor and trade unions on board, YSU is confident it will avoid OU's errors.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University officials say they've paid close attention to the labor dispute surrounding construction of student apartments at Ohio University and won't make the same mistakes on a similar project here.
YSU, Ambling Companies Inc. of Georgia and the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council will announce an agreement Wednesday that calls for all work on an $18 million, 400-bed student apartment complex on campus to be done by local union workers.
The State Controlling Board approved $55,000 Monday so YSU can buy 0.13 acres for the complex.
Ambling and YSU also plan to announce that A.P. O'Horo Co. of Youngstown will be the project's general contractor.
YSU officials hope the trades agreement and local contractor will assure that labor problems that arose at OU won't occur at YSU.
It's very clear that during the course of the OU project the university "was completely in the dark, and as a result they really got bit," YSU President David Sweet said.
"I think we have put in place a plan, and I'm certain that Ambling, wanting to do work in Ohio, will want to make this a model project of how it should be done. I think we'll benefit from that."
OU's problems: Last month the state ordered the general contractor and five subcontractors on OU's $32 million student apartment complex in Athens to pay nearly $760,000 in fines and back wages for underpaying some workers and allowing minors on the job.
The general contractor was Rea Contractors Inc., a subsidiary of Ambling.
OU President Robert Glidden accepted blame for the labor abuses. "We were not hard-nosed enough in monitoring this," he said.
Like the OU project, Ambling also is the developer of YSU's project. But, unlike OU, neither Ambling nor any of its subsidiaries will be the general contractor, YSU officials emphasized.
"We're doing it appropriately with an arm's-length kind of transaction," Sweet said.
Differences: Elizabeth Horner, Ambling marketing director, said the OU and YSU projects are very different.
"We wanted to work with local contractors there, so I don't anticipate that we will have any of the issues that we had in Athens," she said.
"By signing the project labor agreement, they would be avoiding some of the problems they face down there," said Carl McConnell, trades council president.
The YSU project on Wick Oval, behind Wick-Pollock Inn, should start later this month and be completed by the start of fall semester next August, YSU officials said.
The university hopes the apartments will attract more students to campus. YSU's dormitories have been over capacity for three years.
Project financing: In addition to using the same development company, YSU and OU also are using the same method to finance the apartments.
YSU will create a nonprofit entity made up of local business people and university officials. YSU will lease land on Wick Oval to the nonprofit entity that in turn will contract with Ambling to build the apartments.
The arrangement allows the developer to assume the risk for the project and allows the university to develop the land without adding to its own debt.
The method is growing in popularity at universities across Ohio and the nation. Critics, however, have said it's a way to circumvent laws that require public projects to be competitively bid.