Detroit River bridge team issues first significant job postings

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

The authority overseeing construction of the planned $2.1-billion Detroit River bridge is poised to issue its first substantial job postings for the project.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority on Friday will open up the application process for nearly 20 positions — most related to establishing the executive team that will oversee construction of the Detroit River International Crossing bridge that will connect the industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray.

“Since the formation of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority in July of last year, the organization has been focused on making the WDBA operational,” said CEO Michael Cautillo. “One of the first orders of business was to start the recruitment process for individuals to work on this exciting project.”

In October, the WDBA advertised for several senior executive positions which are scheduled to be announced shortly.

The new postings will include jobs in the area of engineering, financial, human resources and administrative assistants.

“As operational needs are identified, further job postings will be published,” Cautillo said.

Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, called it good news that job positions are starting to be rolled out by WDBA, but believes the primary hiring blitz to build the DRIC bridge is at least another 12 to 18 months away.

“They are manning the office and getting the technical expertise they need to get the tenders out and evaluate the RFQ (request for qualifications),” he said. “That hasn’t been issued yet and then they will need a reasonable amount of time for evaluation.”

There will next be a short list created by the WDBA of major construction consortiums with each asked to assemble a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build the bridge, Lyons said.

That will again take some to time for the WDBA team to study and decide on the winning bid, he said.

The DRIC project includes four components — a six-lane bridge, a Canadian plaza with border inspection and toll facilities, a U.S. plaza with border inspection, plus a feeder road and interchange with I-75 in Detroit.

The tender process and selection of contractors could be more complicated than the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway because two countries involved with the bridge project, Lyons said.

The WDBA has retained a local recruitment firm to handle the hiring process for the current postings, Cautillo said.

Those interested in learning of the exact jobs and applying should look online at thejobshoppe.com.

“We encourage talented individuals in the local communities to apply for these and upcoming positions,” Cautillo said.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Tempers Flare Over Villain-In-Chief At Southwest Detroit Bridge Permit Hearing

Nov. 14th | Deadline Detroit

It was supposed to be a routine state permit hearing in a Southwest Detroit school, but nothing that involves Matty Moroun is routine.

Neighborhood residents shouted at pro-Moroun speakers who rode in a chartered bus to a hearing on Ambassador Bridge company plans for a second span, reports WXYZ’s Tom Wait, who calls the session “bizarre and definitely very heated.” reports.

Local attendees, including a Democratic state legislator, accused the bridge company backers of being paid shills.

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (right), who represents the area around the Ambassador Bridge, lashed out at Matty Moroun’s bridge company for bussing in the supporters.

When we asked those people who paid for their ride and why they came to the hearing we were referred to a spokesman for the group. He told Action News the group was not paid, and that they were only in attendance because they cared about the bridge issue.

Everyone in the group who spoke during the hearing delivered pro-Moroun testimonials to the state officials holding the session.

Bridge company president Dan Stamper told Wait: “These are some of the community groups we work with on other issues.”

The Department of Environmental Quality hearing at Western High involved the Moroun company’s request for renewal of construction permits.

Stamper told Action News Moroun has not given up on building a new bridge of his own, despite plans by the state and Canada to construct a new span.

Matty’s money pit

Curtis Guyette | MetroTimes

As the election results arrived last week, few outcomes gave the malcontents here at the Hits more satisfaction than Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s Proposal 6 had been thoroughly rejected by voters.

We don’t care whether that rejection was the result of confusion caused by a surplus of ballot measures and a mass of conflicting advertising that prompted voters to say “no” to all measures.

It’s enough that one billionaire and his family — the owners of the Ambassador Bridge — couldn’t con the people of this state into voting against their own best interest in order to help the Morouns maintain their virtual monopoly over cross-boarder truck traffic between Detroit and Windsor.

Instead, voters, in a roundabout way, provided support to Gov. Rick Snyder and his efforts to build a publicly owned bridge (that would be financed by the Canadian government!) downriver in the Delray area.

By some estimates, the Morouns spent as much as $40 million to have their greedy way with us, and they failed spectacularly.

But anyone who thinks the rebuke is going to stop the Morouns from continuing to fight the new bridge doesn’t know Matty, a guy who apparently never learned the meaning of the word “no.”

Once the election results were in, Mickey Blashfield, director of government affairs for the Moroun’s bridge company and head of the ballot committee that attempted to halt construction of what’s now being called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), issued a statement that, in part, declared:

“It is clear the voters resisted amending the constitution, but it would be a mistake to assume taxpayers support a flawed government bridge that puts taxpayers at risk. Proposal 6 successfully invited public scrutiny of the $3.5 billion government proposal. We have full confidence that the citizens, legislature, and financial community will continue to hold any bridge to its promises of ‘not one dime of taxpayer money.'”

He concluded by saying:

“If the governmental proposal doesn’t collapse from the weight of legal and congressional scrutiny, the NITC will never be built over unstable salt mine foundations, where land speculators are lining up to get rich on the government’s tab.”

The salt mine issue is, by all appearances, another bridge company red herring.

We’re more interested in the phrase “legal and congressional scrutiny.”

We’re not sure that even Matty and his well-heeled kin have enough cash to purchase a majority of Congress, but we do know that, whether he has any real foundation, he is more than willing to spend his money tying things up in court as long as the courts will let him get away with it.

In the long run, we don’t think this is a battle he can win. But that’s not gong to stop him from fighting on and on and on.

Michigan Bridge Project Clears Election Day Hurdle

Ryan Holeywell | November 7, 2012

Money can’t always buy elections.

That’s the takeaway after Michiganders rejected a constitutional amendment backed largely by a single family that felt threatened by the prospect for a new international bridge advanced by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Snyder and Canadian officials earlier this year agreed to a plan for a new internatinoal crossing between Detroit and Windsor that offered Michigan a stunning opportunity: The costs of the $950 million tollroad would be fronted entirely by the Canadian government.

Backers of the project, known as the New International Trade Crossing, called it a big victory for both state taxpayers and Snyder, ensuring Michigan would have access to expanded infrastructure integral to its economic future while not saddling them with the financial risks of such an ambitious project.

But the wealthy Moroun family, which controls the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge and would see reduced traffic — and revenue — from a competitng structure, backed a multi-million dollar campaign that threatened to sideline the project.

That campaign, known as The People Should Decide, backed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required a statewide vote on any new international bridge.

The campaign, which took in nearly $28 million according to campaign finance records, was financially backed almost entirely by a Moroun-controlled holding corporation. Voters rejected that amendment by a 60 percent margin, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“People made clear in Tuesday’s election that they believe in Michigan’s future and support the governor’s vision of moving forward so we can grow our economy and create jobs,” Snyder spokesman Ken Silfven said. “It’s a great win for Michigan because we get thousands of short- and long-term jobs, and a modern international crossing, at no cost to our taxpayers thanks to the generosity of our Canadian friends. You can’t beat that.”

Governing was unable to reach Kenneth Dobson, the Ambassador Bridge’s director of governmental affairs, by phone Wednesday morning.

The campaign for the proposal drew strong rebukes from a variety of observers, including many of the state’s top newspapers, which called its advertisements misleading. The effort was “a blatant attempt to bamboozle Michiganders into protecting the selfish interests of a single family,” according to a Lansing State Journal editorial.

Still, the defeat of the amendment doesn’t mean the bridge will open — or even begin construction — anytime soon. A bridge authority charged with soliciting bids must be formed. The structure of a deal with a private partner needs to be determined. Enviromental reviews need to be completed. Land needs to be acquired. And state officials say they fully expect a slew of lawsuits related to the project, which makes it challenging to predict a timeline.

Silfven says state officials are hoping to soon get a federal permit for the bridge, which is required for all new international border crossings. “Once that happens, other pieces can start falling into place.”

Michigan is missing out on NITC jobs

Windsor-Essex Parkway project draws thousands of construction job applications

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record

RON STANG
correspondent
WINDSOR, ONT.

While 2,500 people have been trained and already have worked in some way on Ontario’s largest current road infrastructure project, thousands more have submitted resumes in a city with one of the country’s highest unemployment rates.

Based on interviews with key union and management personnel building the 11-kilometre, $1.4 billion Windsor-Essex Parkway as the new link between Highway 401 and a proposed bridge to Detroit, it would seem many if not most of those thousands of additional applicants, especially if unskilled, will not obtain jobs on the estimated three year project, which began in earnest in late fall.

Rob Petroni, business manager for Labourers International Union Local 625 in Windsor, says so far “four or five thousand” resumes have been submitted to his union office, which has expanded training for this and other long-term projects. “Few of them have construction backgrounds, most of them have zero,” he said. ”These are all local people.”

Piling activity

Piling activity for the new suburban North Talbot Road overpass.

Petroni said four or five union staff sift through the resumes. Some have been selected for the union’s joint pre-apprenticeship training program with local technical school St. Clair College. After four weeks of classroom instruction in subjects like construction math they are schooled 23 weeks at the union training facility in “every aspect” of work such as forming and pouring concrete, laying pipe and utlities.

“We put 15 pre-apprentices through last year and they all made it and they’re all going into level one this year, and we have another 15 coming in,” Petroni said.

But those numbers are miniscule compared to the enormous resume volume, although Petroni said some unskilled labour will also be used.

The union is also training members for the long term as a slew of other construction projects are expected over the next few years, including a new downtown aquatic centre and expansion of the Windsor-Detroit vehicle tunnel plaza.

The Labourers Union as well as the International Union of Operating Engineers are overseeing much of the hiring. Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, says both labour groups “will tell you they’ve got hundreds of applications from people who have walked in the door hoping they’ll be called when (Parkway construction management) run out of people,” he said.

Meanwhile project manager Parkway Infrastructure Constructors (PIC) says it has received 2.500 resumes.

“We tell anyone who wants to work on the project, skilled or otherwise, that it is important for people to submit their resumes online which will in turn be shared with sub-contractors,” Cindy Prince, PIC’s communications director said. Sub-contractors in turn will contact those “with skills and training they need to deliver the work.”

Petroni said between 100 and 150 personnel have been working on the highway on a daily basis during the project’s early going. This included demolition, tree removal and grubbing, utility relocation and construction of local detour roads. Petroni thinks that number will soon grow to “between 400 and 600” as the project ramps up. The numbers reflect workers who would be on the site at any one time and not the total volume of workers.

Labouring jobs pay a $40 an hour package for trades like form builders, cement finishers and carpenters. Everyone hired through the union so far has been local, Petroni said. Some of the early work didn’t require skills, “but all of the stuff coming up now is mostly skilled,” he said.

One out-of -own contractor, Sturgeon Falls Brush Group from northern Ontario, had to bring staff in to remove large trees. There was no local company with the forest expertise to do the work. “They’re a logging company and that’s really what you needed,” Petroni said. “And they had all the proper equipment and the safety gear.”

But while the pool of skilled or apprenticeship labour is smaller than the vast number of job applications Petroni thinks his local should still be able to find enough skilled people for the project’s overall duration.

“I’m still not panicking,” he said. “I still think that locally we’re going to be able to supply.”

Should the need arise recruiting could go into “the non-union sectors” like residential construction, and move geographically further afield to Chatham, Sarnia and London, Petroni said.

Lyons pointed out Sturgeon Falls workers were members of the Operating Engineers which is a provincial union and the union regards a firm from elsewhere in Ontario “as a local company.”

An Operating Engineers union official did not return calls seeking comment.

Lyons said most construction jobs these days are skilled labour and people “can’t just walk in off the street and get hired.” He said it “takes a lot of skill to operate some of those pieces of equipment and you can’t just hop on there and be efficient in a day and operate it safely.”

Prince said available jobs include construction vehicle operators, traffic controllers, surveyors, designers, site supervisors, engineers and office staff.

She said “the majority” of the 2,500 hires are local. PIC has an agreement with Local 625 that “ensures that local skilled workers are employed” on construction.

Prince said “wages are determined” by sub-contractors with “required skill sets.”

Between 60 and 80 subcontracts will be let over the course of the project. To date only 20 per cent have been finalized “with 96 per cent of those awarded to local Windsor-Essex companies.”

Local companies that have obtained work include Siefker, Jones Group, AMICO, Facca Inc., Black & McDonald, Chall-ENG, Coco Paving, Danshab Enterprises, Dillon and Prestressed Systems Inc.

Donna Marentette, executive director of Workforce WindsorEssex, a local jobs planning and advocacy group, said “we have heard” that total Parkway jobs could amount to 12,000 including spinoffs such as in the hotel, restaurant and realty sectors.

Marentette said it is positive that jobs “are union jobs with a union salary level” and that expanded union apprenticeship training will provide people “with the basis for a career and not just be a one-off.”

Governor Rick Snyder Reaffirms Commitment to New International Trade Crossing in State of the State

During the State of the State Wednesday night, Governor Rick Snyder reiterated his support for the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). The project will create more than 10,000 jobs and secure international commerce with Canada, our largest trading partner, for decades to come.

During his speech Governor Snyder stressed the importance of international trade and it’s impact on Michigan’s economy, “We need to continue our efforts on this topic since it is not a bridge issue, it’s a jobs issue. One third of the North American economy can be found by circling Chicago to Montreal, we’re right in the middle. Let’s not let special interests hold back a great opportunity for job creation, especially since this project can be done without any Michigan taxpayer dollars.”

More than 120 business, labor, community leaders and organizations representing more than 10,000 businesses and hundreds of thousands of Michigan employees support the project.

“I don’t care if the Governor goes through the legislature, does it administratively or uses osmosis to get the bridge built,” said L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive. “If we don’t move forward with the New International Trade Crossing someone is going to build a new bridge in New York and take our business.”

The Coalition to build the New International Trade Crossing supports the Governor’s efforts to move this important project forward.

Click here to see what Michigan’s business and community leaders are saying about their support for the NITC.

Lansing plays same tired politics

Petoskey News Review

Our View

Every couple years the doors open to our editorial board for a new crop of future lawmakers on the campaign trail.

Between a series of questions and a few bruised egos we get to know the political minds of those who would like to represent us.

Funny thing, though, in 2010, every candidate told us the same thing. They said verbatim the most important issue in Michigan was “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Maybe it’s something found in the “How to” campaign brochure. We’re not sure. But, it seemed they all thought adding some jobs in Michigan would be a sound idea.

That’s why fast forward a year and we are left scratching our heads about how the legislature is voting on any legislation attempting to building a new commerce route into Detroit.

The New International Trade Crossing, formerly the Detroit River International Crossing, died its second legislative death recently — despite being the top item on Gov. Rick Snyder’s agenda.

A bill to bring the bridge plan to the full Senate failed, largely because it lacked enough payouts for the suburb that would be losing homes to build such a bridge to gain Democratic support.

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, told reporters on the PBS news program “Off the Record” the legislation was unlikely to get picked up by representatives in the House chamber this year.

So, we could still be in 2009, with Gov. Jennifer Granholm at the helm and a gridlocked Legislature when it comes to adding a new bridge in Detroit. But, we’re not. Voters resoundingly called for something different by electing Republicans en masse last election cycle. Unfortunately, we find Lansing playing the same tired politics when it comes to helping industry in Detroit.

It’s unfortunate. The new class legislators who seemed bent to pass a business-friendly budget balanced with cuts to education and new taxes on senior pensions is now going turn their backs on infrastructure and international trade.

They are also turning their backs on the businesses making up the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance — composed of chambers in Alpena, Benzie County, Cadillac, Charlevoix, Petoskey and Traverse City — who have supported the creation of a new Detroit-Windsor bridge. They also ignore the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and the politically potent Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s endorsements, in favor of a handful of campaign contributions from Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun and knowledge his political action committee won’t target them in the future.

So, Gov. Rick Snyder will likely propose a way of bypassing the House and Senate to build the crossing, and lawmakers will line up to shout about how he is upending the democratic process. But, if this is how government works in Michigan, can you blame him?