Forest Park tightened up requirements for contractors bidding on village projects by approving a responsible bidder ordinance at the July 8 Village Council meeting.

“A responsible bidder ordinance makes sense,” Mayor Rory Hoskins said after the measure was approved 5-0. 

According to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a responsible bidder ordinance is a policy that sets minimal requirements for all contractors bidding on publicly funded projects in a given political jurisdiction.

Hoskins stressed the strength of the new ordinance, noting that the provisions of the previous ordinance that outlines bidding “were not as specific.'”

He said the new ordinance addresses businesses that are owned by minorities, women and veterans. He also stressed the importance of the clause regarding apprenticeships, saying he is “aware of the benefits of apprentice training and safety.”

“We still cannot put minority requirements on bids according to state law,” Village Administrator Tim Gillian said. “But if we’ve got two identical bids and one includes minority subcontractors it will be a point in their favor.”

Gillian said such an ordinance is not uncommon among west suburban municipalities and noted that several other nearby suburbs have similar ordinances. In fact, he said the village’s law firm, Storino, Ramello and Durkin, “mixed and matched” ordinances from other municipalities to come up with Forest Park’s.

The new ordinance defines a “responsible bidder” as a person or entity “who has the capability in all respects to perform fully the contract requirements, with the perseverance, experience, integrity, reliability, capacity, facilities, equipment and credit to assume good faith performance” and lists 10 “specific applicable criteria.”

Those criteria address compliance with laws prerequisite to doing business in Illinois, the federal Equal Opportunity Employer Provision, the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act and the Substance Abuse Prevention on Public Works Projects Act.

Other criteria include having a valid federal tax identification number or Social Security number; certificates of insurance; a written sexual harassment policy that complies with the Illinois Human Rights Act; and relevant experience and adequate references.

In addition, criteria include evidence of participation in apprentice and training programs approved by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship and Training and a “good faith effort” toward providing equal employment opportunities that are consistent with the racial, ethnic and gender demographics of the labor force.

The ordinance was adopted unanimously but only after Commissioner Jessica Voogd proposed a minor amendment to one section.

In the section pertaining to apprentice and training programs, she proposed deleting reference to programs that are “reasonably equivalent” to participation in apprentice and training programs applicable to the to the work to be performed that are approved by and registered with the U.S. Department of Labor.

“It’s uncertain as to how to define what is ‘reasonably equivalent,'” she explained. “To me deleting it just made it more concise.”

As amended, that section, reads, “For village public works construction projects construction of new village facilities, renovation of existing village facilities or village road and/or utility construction projects over $50,000, evidence of participation in apprentice and training programs applicable to the work to be performed on the project which are approved by and registered with the United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship and Training.”

The idea of a responsible bidder ordinance was floated in relation to construction of a four-story commercial and residential building at 7652 Madison St. Union pickets at the construction site in May objected to the use of non-union subcontractors by Vivify Construction, the general contractor on the project hired by Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group, which is owned by Chicago White Sox and Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his longtime business partner Robert Judelson.

Both Gillian and Hoskins admitted that the ordinance only applies to bidders on village projects, not on private developers, with Hoskins noting that being a non-home rule municipality “limited” Forest Park’s efforts.

During the public comment portion of the July 8 meeting, Paul Price, a Forest Park resident and union advocate, who had urged the village to pass a responsible bidder ordinance earlier this year, praised village council members for the action they were about to take.