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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2007

Lucas board urges arena work for minorities

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Now that the Lucas County commissioners have set an ambitious goal, they want to find a way to track its progress.

The commissioners passed a resolution yesterday that urges greater participation on the downtown Toledo arena project for minority-owned businesses and workers.

They would like to see 15 percent of contracted and hourly work awarded to minorities and women, but don't have the legal standing to ensure their goal is met.

Nor do they have an efficient mechanism to track minority participation on county construction contracts.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the commissioners, said work is ongoing to correct that problem by eventually using the county's new accounting software program to keep such statistics.

State law prohibits county governments from setting aside portions of construction projects for minorities or females, but Ms. Wozniak said it was important for the county to be aware of who is working on its contracted projects.

"We're trying to get to a point where we could show in a factual way what our vendor list looks like," Ms. Wozniak said. "If elected officials are aware of who is getting our contract work and minority vendors know we're interested in this issue, it will open up the entire process."

Commissioner Ben Konop said promoting minority participation on the arena project is important because the work force should be a reflection of the people who live in Lucas County.

According to the 2005 U.S. Census, African-Americans make up about 18 percent of the county's population; Hispanics make up 5 percent.

The commissioners strived for 15 percent participation of minorities while Fifth Third Field was being built, beginning in 2000, and netted about 7 percent participation on contracted work and eclipsed the goal for hourly workers.

Johnny Mickler, president of the Greater Toledo Urban League, said he appreciates the commissioners' continued commitment to increasing minority involvement on county projects.

"I think the work climate [between minorities and] the county has been pretty good, but there's still a strong belief that minorities have not been involved enough with big projects like the arena," Mr. Mickler said.

"I think the commissioners are being sensitive enough to reach out and try to do an even better job on this issue."

Yesterday, the commissioners also approved the appropriation of about $1.9 million through various service agreements for Help Me Grow, a county program that works with the parents of young children.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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