All-Union Pasadena Plant Powers Up

Originally published in “Building Trades News” Mag on December 2015

PASADENA—The Glenarm Power Plant repowering, a modernization project that’s being built under an all-union Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, is now entering the home stretch in Pasadena.

The project, which is expected to both improve output and be more environmentally friendly than the current plant, is expected to be finished next spring after about two years of work.

“We are scheduled to turn it over May 31, 2016,” said Michael Seckington, a construction manager with general contractor ARB Inc. “Last year was mostly demo and site preparation, and this year we’ve been installing the new storm drains, foundations, the once-through steam generator, gas turbines, steam turbines and all the other equipment.”

Under the repowering project, the current boiler/steam turbine generating unit is being removed and replaced on the 14-acre site with a quick-starting combined cycle unit.

“Essentially, we’re building a new combined cycle power plant that’s much more cost effective to produce power and cleaner emissions than the old units that are over there.” explained George Neahr, a senior project manager with Orange County-based ARB, which is a business unit of specialty construction company Primoris Services Corp.

Those old units date back 50 years. They’ll be torn down next year.

“They’re taking B3, which is the old unit that was built in the ‘60s, and it will be retired 90 days after we fire up this new unit,” Seckington further explained. “So all of the plants here will be natural gas-fired turbines, and this new one, unlike the ones already here, will have a boiler and a steam turbine, also.”

The new unit’s designed to last 30 years.

160 Workers Each Day

The repowering has been a big project that’s included members from a wide spectrum of Building Trades local affiliated unions, including Pipefitters, Electricians, Laborers, Iron Workers, Boilermakers, Cement Masons, Operating Engineers, Heat & Frost Insulators and Sprinkler Fitters. In all, nearly 160 craft workers are at the South Fair Oaks Avenue worksite at any given time, Neahr told “Building Trades News.”

Neahr also said he’d been told that the Project Labor Agreement was the first-ever in Pasadena for this kind of construction project. Among the PLA’s requirements are 25 percent local hire and that 25 percent of the payroll amount goes to workers living in Pasadena.

“I’m appreciative that the Building Trades have been able to give us local residents,” Neahr said.

“Pasadena is building a new power plant for their citizens and driving their economy by putting Pasadena residents to work,” said Robbie Hunter, State Building Trades President.
Neahr also credited the Building Trades with bringing a quality workforce to the project, men and women who are eager and enthusiastic about working.

“The particular guys we’ve had on this job, they’ve been real good about working together, we haven’t had any jurisdictional squabbles or anything,” he said. “It’s been a fun job to do. Everybody gets along.”

This project may have even opened the door to more PLAs, Neahr said.

“Because the job has went well and we did achieve all the things they wanted, it’s probably gonna look good for the Building Trades in the future,” he said. “I’m sure if they Building Trades continues have a presence in the local politics, there’ll be more projects that go PLA.”

Local Hire Succeeds

The local hire component of the Project Labor Agreement is exceeding goals, with payroll so far at 27.7 percent going to Pasadena residents, and 32.6 percent of hours being worked by Pasadena residents.

For journeyman Johny Larios, 35, a 12-year member of Cement Masons Local 600, it means a shorter commute. “Right now, I’m working five minutes away from my house, so you can’t beat that. This company’s been keeping me busy.”

Local hire applies to existing Trades union members, and also to apprentices starting with a Building Trades local.

IBEW first-year apprentice Edson Morgan is a 2014 graduate of the Apprenticeship Preparation Program at the Flintridge Center in Pasadena.

“I think it’s the best opportunity I’ve had and I’m trying to take full advantage of it,” the Pasadena resident told “Building Trades News.”

“APP is a pre-apprenticeship and we partner with the Building Trades,” program job development specialist Pete Matich said. Components of the program include life skills and job development.

“We also get them some hands-on experience with different kinds of construction sites,” Matich said. “Our program is a complete program: It’s an introduction to all the Trades. We visit several of the Trades and we have several speakers come to the class, such as union members and graduates from APP that are actually in the union.”

The course lasts 12 weeks, or 240 hours, and is taught by three instructors. Class sizes usually range from 25 to 30 people, and the graduation rate is about 80 percent, Matich said. New classes start three times a year, in winter, summer and fall.

Ron Miller, Council Executive Secretary, said APP is effective. “The responsibility on the job is to show up on time and bring the right attitude to safety and learning new skills,” he said. “APP prepares Pasadena residents for that.”

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