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Prevailing wage gains more opposition at MCC board

CRYSTAL LAKE – Add McHenry County College to the growing list of governmental bodies with some pushback against the prevailing wage law.

Following in the footsteps of the McHenry County Board and the Woodstock City Council, opposition to approving the state-mandated prevailing wage was expressed by some trustees who wanted more local control in paying for local capital projects.

Prevailing wage requires all contractors and subcontractors for works built by any public body with public funds to be paid the hourly rate set by the Illinois Department of Labor for that county.

Because the rates are typically based on union wages, local governments have long complained that prevailing wages are significantly higher than the local median and drive up the cost of taxpayer projects.

Trustee Chris Jenner, who campaigned against the law while he was on the Cary School District 26 Board, was most vocal against supporting the measure.

"This is bad law ... having the Illinois Department of Labor shove [rates] down your throat," Jenner said. " I can only hope this [opposition] gains some traction. I've seen that some other local bodies of government in McHenry County have voted against it."

Unlike those other local bodies that cast a vote against the prevailing wage, Jenner was not able to find enough support to convince all the MCC trustees to follow suit.

Trustee Mary Miller said she supported the prevailing wage law and even if she didn't, the board would be putting the college at great risk by not approving the mandate. Government officials who violate the prevailing wage law could face a Class A misdemeanor and the body could be subjected to significant fines.

"We're just doing what the act is stating," Miller said. "You cannot get around this."

Jenner, whose board at Cary District 26 twice voted down the prevailing wage act, said there were no consequences when the motion failed and it was more of a symbolic statement. He urged the board to draft a resolution announcing a stance against the prevailing wage.

"What [is the state] going to do, throw me in trustee jail?" Jenner said.

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