June 3, 2011. The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
DELAND — Volusia County officials agreed Thursday to consider adopting an ordinance giving companies that hire locally preference when bidding for work with the county.
Such an ordinance, proposed by the group Fighting Against Injustice and Toward Harmony, or FAITH, would be an attempt to curb unemployment rates and try to help get people back to work.
After a lengthy discussion, the council voted 5-2 to consider such an ordinance.
Councilwomen Patricia Northey and Joie Alexander voted against the proposal. Northey, who represents Southwest Volusia, said it would be unfair to many of her constituents who live in Volusia County but work in Seminole and Orange counties.
“This will be a job killer for my district,” Northey said, “and we have the highest foreclosure rate in the county.”
Council members plan a workshop later this summer and said they would like to have an ordinance in place by the beginning of October. At the workshop, the council will discuss ideas for promoting local hiring and local preference, with the intent of adopting an ordinance within 120 days.
The council decided at the last minute not to use a draft ordinance presented by FAITH, greatly disappointing representatives of the religious-based group who have worked on the ordinance for about three years.
Afterward, Rev. L. Ronald Durham of the Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Daytona Beach said he had mixed emotions.
Durham said he’s happy the county will work on an ordinance but disappointed to hear “in essence they’re going to start from scratch.”
FAITH includes 30 congregations countywide and represents approximately 35,000 to 40,000 people, Durham said.
The group’s ordinance would tie various point values for preference on contracts to companies that employ people from the five U.S. Census tracts with the lowest unemployment, companies that employ Volusia residents and companies that employ people within Central Florida.
Their ordinance wouldn’t apply to construction or construction management, property leases or concessions. It included suggested sanctions, such as suspension of payment or work stoppage, if a qualified company fell short on its number of local employees.
Two council members, Josh Wagner and Andy Kelly, said the group’s ordinance could be considered a starting point for the county to develop its own.
“I think it’s a great beginning,” Kelly said. “I would love for us to move forward by adopting the concept.”
However, county staff said the ordinance could have a number of potential implications, including pressure on locally hired employees to maintain residence in a specific location or lose their employment and penalties when a company’s employees leave.
County Manager Jim Dinneen said he didn’t think the ordinance could be implemented in a way the county could defend.
Approximately 250 of the county’s current contracts would meet the criteria for the ordinance, including contracts for such services as automotive, lawn maintenance and air conditioning.
The ordinance was not supported by the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.
County Chair Frank Bruno and Councilman Carl Persis did not support focusing on specific census tracts.
“Any person in this county who is unemployed is just as important as anybody else in this county who is unemployed,” Persis said. The goal should be to get people employed regardless of where they live, he said, with an ordinance that is not cumbersome or problematic.
Durham said the group has changed provisions of the ordinance, after meeting with council members, to try to address their concerns and also met with the chamber.
He said the group would remain involved in the county’s efforts to produce an ordinance.
“We’re in this to the end,” he said.
In other business, the council continued a discussion on how it will proceed with a plan to use Volusia ECHO money to buy land to increase public waterfront access and allowed Bruno to delay appointment of another board member to the Halifax Area Advertising Authority.