Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade tells its largest contractors to hire locals for construction jobs

Miami-Dade County will ask its top construction contractors to hire locally for at least half of their positions, a request that could determine whether the companies can snag future business from Florida’s largest local government.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a “Residents First” hiring policy for construction contracts costing Miami-Dade at least $1 million. The program sets a goal of contractors hiring Miami-Dade residents for at least 50 percent of all jobs on the contract. And while the target isn’t mandatory, commissioners want the county’s procurement division to weigh companies’ local hiring under the program when considering future contract awards.

“It is sending a message through the Board,” said Commissioner Jean Monestime, sponsor of the ordinance that passed unanimously. “I think the companies will follow suit.”

Commissioners still must vote on the details of the program, once Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration produces a plan to implement the ordinance. Gimenez’s office said in a memo to commissioners the program would cost at least $70,000 to administer.

The new program treads on delicate territory, since state and federal law limit local government’s ability to reserve tax-funded jobs for residents. Some government contracts in distressed areas already require local residents to make up about 10 percent of a contract’s payroll. Monestime, who is running for reelection this year, had tried to make the hiring rules tougher, but failed to get the more restrictive ordinance approved in the commission’s committee system.

Sean McCrackine, a Monestime aide, said about 30 county contracts would fall under the program’s rules if it were in effect today.

At the PortTunnel project, a venture backed by $309 million in county dollars, local residents make up more than 80 percent of the workers, thanks to political sensitivities and an effort to hire employees from Miaim-Dade, said Christopher Hodgkins, vice president of Miami Access Tunnel, the private company that won state and county backing to build the underwater roadway linking the port to the MacArthur Causeway.

“We came on the heels of the Marlins stadium,” Hodgkins said, referring the unpopular 2009 vote to use taxes to build a new baseball park in Miami. “There was no support in this town for a large infrastructure project paid for by the taxpayers.”

To counter the backlash, Hodgkins said he reviewed each tunnel contract for a local telephone number. “I’d look for the 305,” he said. In terms of hitting a 50 percent local-hiring goal, Hodgkins said: “We could have done it walking backwards.”

The Residents First program passed during a meeting where commissioners also:

• Adopted a new rule that will make it more difficult for developments to go up along the county’s western and southern edges. The county will prohibit applications to expand the Urban Development Boundary if the plans result in enclaves — so-called “donut holes” — outside the UDB surrounded by development.

In the past, Miami-Dade allowed applications filed by different developers at the same time to proceed even if they created pockets of undeveloped land. Those applications will now be denied by county planners.

“This is a great, positive step forward,” Celeste De Palma of the Tropical Audubon Society told the board.

Last October, the board expanded the UDB for the first time since 2011 to do away with a donut hole — 521 acres that had been left in the middle of two commercial and industrial developments, Beacon Lakes and Shoppyland Enterprises.

Commissioners said they wanted to avoid similar situations in the future, especially since environmentalists noted that developers could create enclaves as a tactic to force expanding the UDB, which was created to limit sprawl and protect agricultural and natural land.

At last month’s meeting of the land use and development committee, Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said the new policy would be unfair because it would benefit developers who file applications first and hurt developers who come later with plans that might create enclaves.

But neither he nor anyone else raised concerns Tuesday, and the ordinance passed unanimously.

• Certified 19 affordable-housing developers for future county work. A vote on the vendor list was delayed last May after the

Miami Herald revealed

one of the firms, Carlisle Development Group, was under investigation by a federal grand jury. Other vendors also complained that not enough firms had been informed about the chance to apply.

As part of the updated pool, Carlisle, which has transferred its interest in four projects to Atlantic|Pacific, would not be certified. Atlantic|Pacific did not apply.

• Instructed Gimenez’s staff to prepare a report on creating safer bicycling and jogging routes between Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne. Following a string of bike-and-car collisions on Key Biscayne’s Rickenbacker Causeway, Commissioner Diaz sponsored a resolution giving County Hall 60 days to recommend safety improvements for Crandon Boulevard, Brickell Avenue, South Bayshore Drive and surrounding areas. Fixes could include reduced speed limits, DUI checkpoints, bike lanes and crosswalks, Diaz said.