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Local News

Protesters want work at Water's Edge project in Joliet

Joliet electrical contractor James Foster (right) leads a protest at the Water's Edge development with Marcus Tyler (center) of Joliet and Ronald Banks, a contractor.
Joliet electrical contractor James Foster (right) leads a protest at the Water's Edge development with Marcus Tyler (center) of Joliet and Ronald Banks, a contractor.

JOLIET – About 15 people protested hiring and contracting practices Friday at the future Water's Edge construction site in Joliet.

Protesters said the Housing Authority of Joliet is not following federal requirements for the project, a claim disputed by the authority and the general contractor on the job.

"All we want to do is work," said Steve Broadway of Joliet, who contended he has been unable to get a response to a resume he sent to the authority.

Water's Edge is a mixed-income development being built as replacement housing for the Des Plaines Garden Homes housing project, which was demolished in the summer.

James Foster, a Joliet electrical contractor, said the authority has not followed federal Section 3 contracting rules that would give local contractors opportunities to work on the project. He said local contractors that would qualify under Section 3 are being shut out of the bidding process.

"We didn't hear anything from them until one of us found on the internet that the bids were due four days later," Foster said.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 3 rules create opportunities for low-income residents of public housing and surrounding neighborhoods.

Housing Authority CEO Michael Simelton said both the authority and general contractor, Carlson Construction of Joliet, are following Section 3 requirements in the construction of Water's Edge.

"We believe we have a plan to address the residents that we serve," Simelton said. "This is not unfamiliar territory to us."

He said it is still early in the project, and most of the hiring and contracting for the project has not been done yet.

"Some of those people protesting are probably under consideration," Simelton said. "They have to let it go through the process."

Foster's company got a contract to remove light fixtures during the demolition of Des Plaines Garden, said Mark Carlson, one of the owners of Carlson Construction.

"There are numerous subcontracts to be released on the project," Carlson said.

Simelton said the authority will hold Section 3 meetings on a yet-to-be-determined date in November for contractors and prospective workers.

Publicly funded construction projects in Joliet have been an issue for years, particularly for minority contractors and workers who say they are not getting a fair share of work.

Section 3 rules, however, do not have provisions for minority participation. The rules are aimed at increasing opportunities for low-income residents primarily in public housing but also in the surrounding areas.

Marcus Tyler, a union laborer who said he has lived in the Des Plaines Garden neighborhood for 20 years, said he believed the protest Friday was necessary to get the housing authority's attention.

"We have to take this stand, take this action for them to see what they're not doing," Tyler said.

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