News In Brief

Ironton High, First School Built in Ohio Under Project Labor Agreement

Journal: Issue 4 - 2011
The new Ironton High School.

Ironton High School has always been proud of its extraordinary history.

Located just outside Columbus, Ohio in the city of Ironton, this classical brick school was built in 1922. Its stadium was not only home to the professional Ironton Tanks football team until 1931, but is also one of the state’s few arenas to feature a roof and remains one of the last covered stadiums in use for high school football today. Contributing to its historic luster was the school’s selection in 2002 as an Ohio Memory Project by the state Historical Society.

Recently the school added another chapter to its rich building history.

In 2007, prompted by mounting maintenance expenses, Ironton residents voted to rebuild and restore their high school. Their vote, together with a reversal in policy by the administration of then Democratic Governor Ted Strickland that had previously prohibited local school districts from requiring prevailing wage rates or project labor agreements on school construction projects, paved the way for Ironton High to become the first such project in Ohio to be built under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). PLAs are generally negotiated by a state or central building trades council, in this instance, the Tri-State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, on behalf of the area’s building trades’ affiliates such as BAC’s OADC. Use of a single labor agreement covering all contractors prevents inefficiencies and delays and promotes stability on large projects. Both private and public projects utilize PLAs, although on public works projects PLAs help ensure that local workers benefit from the work paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Dean Nance, Superintendent of Ironton City Schools, is definitely glad the school district negotiated a PLA. “The quality of trades union workmanship… has proven to be excellent and the collaboration among the trades make this a superior project. We experienced minimal problems throughout the whole construction process and were able to successfully resolve all problems collectively as a team. I wholeheartedly recommend a Project Labor Agreement on any construction project,” Nance said.

Eighteen members of Locals 7 Kentucky and 39 Ohio of the OADC employed by Central Masonry (Huntington, WV) worked on the project over a three-year period. They began by demolishing unsalvageable portions of the structure. In order to retain the school’s iconic features, many interior and exterior elements were retained, restored and/or repurposed. The original front entrance for example, which included friezes depicting the history of Columbus, was incorporated into the new entry. The 30-year-old gymnasium and beloved Tanks Stadium were also saved, as were numerous ornate exterior stone pieces following expert restoration by BAC craftworkers, who also tuckpointed existing brickwork.

Members installed a combination of brick and colored concrete masonry units. Two types of buff colored concrete masonry units, split faced and scored, were required to match the limestone of the original entrance and other existing building features.

“The project was built 100% union,” said George “Mac” Mellert, President of Local 7 Kentucky and OADC Vice President. “It was an honor to witness Ohio’s first school project constructed under a PLA.” Mellert’s pride is shared by the members who worked on Ironton High and OADC Director Ken Kudela. Says Kudela, “It was a challenging job but our members rose to the occasion. Over the past three years, we’ve seen firsthand that PLAs are good for communities and good for workers. We oppose the reckless decision by Gov. Kasich’s (R-OH) administration earlier this year to try and strip school districts of their authority to negotiate prevailing wages and PLAs on school construction.”

Ironton’s new three-story high school was completed on time and on budget with the grand opening in August 2010.

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