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County keeps contract work in-house

A Milwaukee County Board veto override Wednesday means contractors will miss out on $600,000 worth of contracts, and 30 tradespeople on the county payroll will keep their jobs.
“We are not a source to go to the private sector to make them richer off of taxpayer dollars,” said County Supervisor Michael Mayo, who voted against County Executive Scott Walker’s outsourcing plan.
Walker, who drafted the plan to contract out more electrical and plumbing work on county buildings, stuck to his argument that it’s cheaper to rely on contractors. He said the county would save money because it would not have to pay benefits to in-house workers. Under the 2009 budget the board approved, Milwaukee County will spend less on physical construction work and more on employee benefits, he said.
“The sad reality,” Walker said, “is that for the same dollar amount, dollar for dollar, less work can be done.”
Mayo rejected the argument, saying most of the county’s burden of paying benefits is from workers who already retired. He also said contractors would not perform as well as the county tradespeople.
“With any company, they always have skilled tradespeople there to maintain the things that they have,” Mayo said. “For bigger projects, they bring in a contractor. I understand that.”
The county contracts out about $300,000 of construction a year to private companies for work the 60 in-house tradespeople can’t cover. Walker’s budget proposed cutting the staff in half and doubling the amount of contracted work, which Walker projected would save the county almost $1.4 million a year. The County Board rejected the plan in its budget, but Walker on Monday used his veto to restore it. The board overrode the veto Wednesday with a 14-5 vote.
“Industrywide,” Walker said, “I just think it would’ve been good for people in the industry to have one more thing to bid on.”

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