As DeKalb officials gear up for the county’s $1.3 billion watershed capital improvement project, some commissioners want to know what safeguards are in place to guarantee that many of the estimated 4,000 jobs go to DeKalb residents.
“I see the vision, but I don’t see anything to make it happen,” said Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton during a March 29 meeting of the Board of Commissioners’ public works committee. “It’s my understanding as these jobs become available that the companies that are selected will come in with their own crews who have specific skill sets.”
Kelvin Walton, the county’s director of the purchasing and contracting department, said potential contract winners will be required to hire workers from the county’s First Source registry, a listing of qualified and trained DeKalb County residents available for contracts.
The county’s First Source ordinance requires contractors and beneficiaries “to make a good faith effort to hire 50 percent of all entry level jobs using the First Source” candidate database, according to the county’s website.
When the contracts are ready, potential primary contractors will have “to list who they’re going to hire, [and for] what positions that they’re going to hire,” Walton said.
“That’s going to be part of the evaluation process,” Walton said. “If a contract is for $1 million we expect [the contractor] to hire people and not just one person. We’re going to be evaluating those contracts based on how many people they say they’re going to hire.”
Walton said residents are being trained at DeVry, Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
Sutton said she has received calls from constituents who cannot find information about the One DeKalb Works jobs.
“At the schools, there’s nothing listed about the One DeKalb Works programs,” Sutton said. “They have the regular curriculum up but I don’t see anything that’s in reference to that. And their regular curriculum do not support the type jobs” the county will need.
County watershed director Joe Basista told commissioners the capital improvement plan “falls under the county’s One DeKalb Works program.”
That program was hailed by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis in November 2011 as a “local stimulus plan.”
“The attempt of the One DeKalb Works program is to leverage public spending to maximize opportunities for DeKalb County residents to secure gainful employment and grow small businesses,” Basista said.
“There will be lots of contracting opportunities,” Basista said. “There will be hundreds of contracts issued to hopefully local and small businesses, and there will be thousands of jobs created.”
Commissioner Lee May said One DeKalb Works “is a political program that the CEO has put together.”
“As much as we want it to be a jobs program, it’s a byproduct of the need that we have,” May said. “I don’t want people to begin to think this is a political program. This is an infrastructure program where there’s real need. As a result of that need, that’s where the jobs and the business development component comes in.”
“The whole One DeKalb thing has so many political dynamics to it,” May said.
In addition to One DeKalb Works, the umbrella has One DeKalb Lives, One DeKalb Volunteers, One DeKalb Votes.
During the next three months, DeKalb County officials plan to put together their three management teams for the $1.3 billion project.
In April, the county will seek proposals for a program management team for its consent decree projects.
This team would oversee the consent decree schedule, cost controls, reporting; sewer system modeling, cleaning, inspection and rehabilitation; and real estate acquisition coordination and public outreach.
A second request for proposals is planned to be issued in May for the construction management for the Snapfinger Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Snapfinger is the “single largest project we will undertake,” Basista said. Approximately $250 million will go to rebuild, upgrade and expand the plant.
Another management firm will handle the capital improvement plan, including project development, design management and design reviews. This firm will also ensure that at least 20 percent of the contract work goes to local small businesses.