Charlottesville City Council on Monday approved a resolution directing City Manager Maurice Jones and his staff to find ways to funnel local workers to jobs associated with the Belmont Bridge replacement project.
The measure passed, 5-0, as part of the council’s consent agenda, a list of measures that do not require public discussion before being approved.
The measure specifically tasks Jones with determining which jobs could be done by city departments and making sure students at Piedmont Virginia Community College, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center and in the city’s Growing Opportunity apprenticeship program have the skills to do them.
The resolution also instructed Jones to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Piedmont Workforce Network, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission to develop strategies to promote local workers.
The council passed a similar resolution in March, asking Jones to do a similar study of the West Main Street improvement project. Jones has not yet shared the results of that study.
Working through that study will inform the work on the resolution passed Monday, Jones said. Both studies raise similar questions, he said.
“There are several challenges that staff has identified and are working to address, including how state procurement laws will affect our approach, identifying the types of jobs that apprentices can perform during significant projects like West Main Street or Belmont Bridge and how best to work with contractors on this initiative,” Jones said.
Despite the item being approved without discussion, Councilor Kathy Galvin said it represents an important step for those looking for work in Charlottesville.
“It is something that could get lost but it is a very significant step that council is taking … it is very important because it pertains to the hiring of local workers,” she said. “State procurement law doesn’t allow us to require contractors to hire local workers, but local government can.”
Councilor Wes Bellamy, embattled of late over a series of offensive Tweets he posted before his election, applauded the resolution.
“I think it makes a world of difference making sure we have local individuals prepared and trained to take on some of these jobs,” he said in an interview Monday before the meeting. “Not only so we can build our local economy … but also put people to work.”
Councilor Kristin Szakos said she sees the resolution as a commitment from the city to improve residents’ chances of landing work.
“We are looking at a lot of things coming down the pike, a lot of projects and such,” she said. “This frames our determination that, although state law prohibits us from requiring businesses to hire local workers we are determined to see what we can do to make sure local workers get into some of those jobs.”
The council is hoping to apply the same tactic to the city’s tech sector. Last month, councilors directed staff to develop a resolution designed to strengthen the link between the city’s technology businesses and CATEC and PVCC.
Galvin presented a draft of a resolution at the council’s Nov. 7 meeting.
Galvin’s measure also came with a nine-month deadline, and called for paid internships in local tech businesses and the development of ways to make local trainees attractive hires.
That measure has not been before the council yet.