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Does requiring a construction apprenticeship program for contractors raise costs or save money in the long run?

Hamburg Town Board members and residents grappled with that question before the board voted, 2-1, Monday night to require contractors bidding on jobs for the Town of Hamburg that will cost more than $300,000 to have a state-approved apprenticeship program.

The board’s action reinstated the requirement, which the town first enacted in 2004.

Supervisor Steven Walters voted against Monday’s measure. He said the town had rescinded the requirement in 2008.

“I certainly think it is important we have skilled workers,” Walters said. “I don’t believe this is the way to accomplish that.”

State law allows municipalities to require the apprenticeship program, and the resolution stated the programs “expand the pool of skilled workers in the Town of Hamburg by providing many residents the means to earn a decent living and thereby fostering the local and regional economies.”

Councilman Michael P. Quinn, who proposed the measure, was in an apprenticeship program with the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers.

“I know the apprenticeship program that I went through certainly kept me safe in one of the most dangerous of construction fields, and I’m thankful that I could go home to my family every night because of this training, because of the way the journeymen looked out for apprentices, and because of the quality and craftsmanship I learned through the apprenticeship program,” said Quinn, who now is an attorney.

Resident Brad Rybczynski said contractors with apprenticeship programs often bid lower than other contractors.

“This is an effort by our community to show not only that we care about the project being done but that we care about the people that live in our community,” he said.

But Walters noted that the low bidder for the general contracting for the Hamburg Library expansion did not have an apprenticeship program.

The Building and Construction Trades Council, made up of 17 area construction-related unions, has challenged the bid award in State Supreme Court.

The bid from the company that did have the training program was $70,000 higher.

Quinn argued that having assurance that workers are trained in safety through the apprenticeship program would reduce accidents and potential liability to the town.

“I believe that perhaps this is an incentive for other contractors to ensure that their employees are properly trained, and safe and not exploited,” he said.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com