The Prince George’s County Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that expands the scope of the county’s prevailing wages.

Prevailing wages are the minimum hourly pay rate for employees and contractors working on specific public works projects. Prevailing wage requirements mandate pay often well above minimum wage, which decreases employee turnover for contracting companies.

Under the ordinance CB-33, public works projects such as resurfacing roads, pavement milling and mechanical systems service will be added to the county’s prevailing wages clause.

Until now, prevailing wages only applied to public works projects involving construction, reconstruction, maintenance, painting and decorating, and demolition.

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District 8 council member Edward Burroughs III said in a statement the bill will not only provide much-needed financial support for employees but also strengthen the quality of public works projects in the county.

“The passage of this bill will help make Prince George’s County a better place to live, work and raise a family,” the statement said. “Well-trained workers earning family-supporting wages contribute to the economic prosperity of the county.”

The bill also includes an amendment by at-large council member and ordinance sponsor Mel Franklin that recommends Prince George’s County residents must work at least 25 percent of the hours spent by contracting companies on public works projects.

In the first draft of the bill, the clause recommended 25 percent of new hires for contracting companies must be Prince George’s County residents. However, after discussions with the Prince George’s County housing and community development department, Franklin said this was not the best standard to promote good-paying jobs in the county.

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“New hires are not the right standard because oftentimes, contractors don’t hire anybody new as contractors already have their teams when they come to projects,” Franklin said. “New hire requirements don’t have any meaning.”

One of the primary concerns of bills that mandate prevailing wages is the increase in construction costs.

Arian Albear, the council’s legislative budget and policy analyst, said there are currently 45 active projects of $500,000 or more subject to prevailing wage. The expansion would add another two to five percent to the total project cost, according to Albear.

However, Albear said higher construction costs would be offset by faster construction times resulting from higher worker productivity.

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found increased construction costs as a result of prevailing wages are also offset by better workplace safety, the social benefits of higher wages and increased government revenue from projects, Albear said.

Council members Franklin, Calvin Hawkins II, Jolene Ivey, Johnathan Medlock, Rodney Streeter, Dannielle Glaros and Deni Taveras all joined Burroughs as co-sponsors of the bill.

CB-33 is expected to take effect Dec. 8.