Jun 14, 2010 7:54 PM by David Ortiviz

Pueblo City Council to vote on Black Hills plant

Tonight-June 14, city council is expected to vote on a deal that could bring a $450 million power complex to Pueblo. Last month the project almost came to a halt--but now it appears a compromise has been made.

Black Hills Energy has selected Pueblo as its preferred site to build two natural gas power plants. However, the energy company refused to a project labor agreement within the annexation agreement with the City of Pueblo. The project labor agreement would have required Black Hills Energy to work with the Colorado Building Trades Council to hire union workers and pay them higher wages and benefits. Black Hills would not agree to those conditions, saying it would raise the cost of the project $30 to $50 million.

Now, according to city council member Vera Ortegon, a compromise has been made. "A consortium was formed," said Ortegon. The consortium is made up of half dozen contractors from Pueblo with a common goal: They want local contractors to win the construction bids.

Black Hills Energy believes it can contract with regional companies, stay within the budget and still satisfy the labor unions. "The contractors that we will be using will be limited to union contractors, union labor. It will still be a competitively bid process" said Christopher Burke, with Vice President of Operations- CO ELEC Black Hills Energy.

"To me, it makes no difference if it's union or non-union. What makes a difference is that we have local workforce," said Ortegon.

Ortegon says, unless there are any unforseen, last minute changes in the annexation agreement, she intends to vote in favor of it. There are six other members on city council.

Tonight's meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

By the way, I have a call in to the Colorado Building Trades Council to get their reaction. At this time I have not heard back from anyone at the organization.

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