Change without force

In the February issue of Transcript, the ODOT Newsletter, Pieter Wykoff addresses the art of compromise – how ODOT and the Ohio Contractors Association applied it to the long-standing issue of force account limits and how their efforts will benefit motorists throughout Ohio. Here is an excerpt of Mr. Wykoff’s article.

If you follow national politics at all, with all the talk of fiscal cliffs and debt limits, you might notice the absence of a certain idea from our political discussions: Compromise. One definition of the word is to make a deal between different parties, where each gives up a part of their demands for the good of all involved. Another definition of the concept is finding agreement in the course of an argument through communication — a mutual acceptance of terms often involving variations from an original goal or desire.

“We’ve been fighting with ODOT over force account limits for nearly a century,” says OCA President Chris Runyan. He’s not kidding. The proof is in a 1928 annual report published by the Ohio Department of Highways.  It contains a debate on the use of day labor for projects versus contracting outside sources. The current law limits department personnel to bridge, culvert and traffic signal projects costing less than $50,000 and road repair projects costing less than $25,000.

“The current process is very subjective, depending on how you measure labor costs and the cost of equipment and materials,” Runyan said. “Every four years or so we have a very public battle in the Ohio Legislature with ODOT and other public entities about the force account limits and how they should be applied. Our members are tired of this fight.”

And so it was that Runyan decided to approach ODOT officials to see if both sides could negotiate a more objective process. He decided to propose a radical idea: a compromise. “We were looking for a different paradigm,” he said, “so that both our members and ODOT could say it will be a win-win situation for everybody.”

Runyan discovered that ODOT officials were willing to talk terms as well.

Read the full text of Mr. Wykoff’s Transcript article here.

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