McHenry County College trustees discuss prevailing wage, disagree on ordinance

CRYSTAL LAKE – Although McHenry County College Board of Trustees members agreed they don’t like being required by the state to support prevailing wage requirements, they remained split on what to do about it.

At Tuesday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the board spent more than a half-hour talking about whether the board should support a prevailing wage resolution.

In the end, the decision largely is symbolic. Even if the board opposed the resolution, the college still would have to pay the wages required by state law.

State law requires local government bodies, such as the MCC board, to adopt the wage schedule each year. But although voting to reject the schedule carries no penalty, a government that willingly pays workers less than prevailing wage is illegal. Elected officials can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, and the body itself can be subject to fines, which would be paid by the taxpayers.

The resolution states that it is mandatory for all contractors and subcontractors who are hired by the college to pay all laborers, workmen and mechanics employed by them not less than the general prevailing rate of wages.

MCC President Clint Gabbard said that although he believes it’s a “ridiculous resolution to pass,” he is concerned that if the board doesn’t endorse the resolution, the community college would risk losing state and federal grants.

“Every time I sign on for a federal or state grant, it asks me that question: ‘Do you agree to comply with all state and federal laws?’ The prevailing wage act is often singled out as including this particular law,” Gabbard said.

MCC Board Chairman Chris Jenner said he was on the Cary School District 26 Board for eight years and at least three of those years the board did not pass the prevailing wage resolution. Other local governments have taken a similar stance in the past, including the McHenry County Board.

“Prevailing wage police never came for us,” Jenner said.

Later into the discussion, Gabbard asked for a straw poll where trustees stood on the issue.

Jenner said he can’t support it.

“[I] find having a gun to my head morally wrong,” Jenner said. “... I understand if it fails what risk we’re at. I get it. Just the way that this is structured, the force that is being put onto us is wrong.”

Vice chairwoman Diane Evertsen agreed with Jenner.

“As long as you continue to pay prevailing wage, the fact that I disagree with it is not going to negatively impact the college,” Evertsen said.

Evertsen said she can’t support it.

“Absolutely not – I won’t vote for it,” Evertsen said. “I think it’s an intimidation tactic, and I won’t comply with that.”

Trustees Linda Liddell, Ronald Parrish, Mike Smith and Justin Peters said they’ll support it during the meeting. Trustee Molly Walsh was absent, and Trustee Karen Tirio said during the meeting that she’s unsure of where she stands.

Liddell said she wouldn’t want to jeopardize the risk of grants for the college, and she wants the board to continue to voice their concerns to the state separately.

“Let’s follow the law, let’s try to change it at the state,” Liddell said.

“To Trustee Liddell’s point of view, there’s no reward for this institution in formally voting against it, and in essence, publicly stating that we are willing to violate the law,” Smith said. “There’s no gain.”

Gabbard said he’s also in support of signing the ordinance.

Around the county, McHenry Township, consisting of new trustees, ultimately voted against the ordinances, and the Marengo City Council unanimously voted Monday in support of it. The McHenry County Board in past years has voted against the prevailing wage ordinance.

In two weeks, the board will be asked to vote on the prevailing wage act resolution.

That meeting will be June 29.

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