Fired-up workers picketing a Lansing construction project Monday had a message for the city, hire local.
They're upset Lansing went with outside contractors for the job.
"We're here, we're working and willing to take on more," Glenn Freeman with the Greater Lansing Labor Council said.
The multi-million dollar project will create a central city garage. Lansing wants to consolidate its fleet of vehicles and maintenance in one place.
"The workers on this site are non-local workers, we've got them coming from as far away as Ohio and Grand Rapids," a frustrated Freeman said. He believes contractors from the Lansing area should do the job.
City leaders say it's not that simple.
"When we're going to do a project, we don't just go our and hire the mayor's friends, or hire people we like, or hire the people we know," Mayor Virg Bernero said. "We put it out for bid."
Bernero says Lansing did that, multiple times. The first round of bids came in way too high, so the city put off the work and shopped around.
"I can't understand what their beef is," Bernero said. "In terms of looking out for the taxpayer that's what I have to do, the taxpayer comes first."
Bernero says he wants to hire local, but in this case local work was simply too expensive. "We saved considerable dollars, tens of thousands of dollars by going with the contractors we did," he said.
Picketing contractors understand budgets are tight, but say we can't forget money spent at home stays here. Local workers invest in their community, Freeman says.
Freeman was also disappointed in the city's bidding process. He says it's difficult to make a competitive bid when a city seeks bids several times.
Bernero argues Lansing has the right and obligation to seek out the best possible price.
The contractors the city selected are both union and non-union. They wouldn't cross the picket line Monday, however Bernero says that should not delay the project or increase the cost.
By city ordinance, local workers do get preference for local work. Anytime Lansing makes a purchase over $1,000 it must include a local bid. Also, if an area contractor is within five percent of a lower offer, the city will go back to that contractor and give them a chance to match it.
That rule didn't apply to this project. There is an exemption for construction work over $500,000.