County makes right decision on wages

Jefferson County officials were right when they worked to make sure township and county roads are protected during gas and oil drilling operations.

County commissioners were right when they recently imposed a requirement that companies doing improvements on county or township roads must pay prevailing wages to workers.

County Engineer James Branagan worked with other county and township officials to draft a road-use maintenance agreement that requires drillers upgrade roads prior to heavy equipment being moved to work sites. The county has seen more than $1 million spent on county roads by gas and oil drilling companies.

The state since has adopted a road-use maintenance agreement that must be followed throughout the state.

The county commissioners have been approached numerous times by the Laborers International Union to put pressure on the gas and oil drilling companies to hire local workers.

Commissioners can talk to the companies about hiring local workers, but that probably wouldn’t do much good. Some of the companies care about hiring local workers but the bottom line is still profit and it is cheaper to bring in workers from out of the area.

The prevailing wage requirement now levels the playing field. Companies doing upgrades on county or township roads now must pay a certain level of wages. The state determines the pay scale for workers under public contracts.

The gas and oil drilling boom on the horizon will benefit the county in many ways. Making sure local workers get a fair chance at jobs in the field is a must. There are many out-of-work residents who possess skills needed in the oil and gas industry. Workers on technical or highly-skilled jobs, unfortunately for the time being, must be imported from out of the area. Hopefully local training programs will educate our workers to fill some of the specialized jobs.

The county has to have the welcome mat out for any business coming in but that doesn’t mean our local workers can be stepped over for jobs. The county also has to make sure regulations don’t become too stringent to discourage further development of the oil and gas drilling.