The launch date for the controversial day laborer site on NE MLK and Everett has been pushed back nearly six weeks to June 16.
Romeo Sosa, director of VOZ, the organization in charge of running the center, had said as recently as last week that the original May 6 opening day, which VOZ has been advertising for weeks, was firm.
That changed on Wednesday, April 30. "We are working with an architect to figure out the logistics. The trailer, tent, and the port-a-potties are being worked out. We just need some more time," Sosa says.
A $200,000 brainchild of Mayor Tom Potter, the day laborer site is the city's answer to the dozens of workers that solicit work on MLK, E Burnside, and SE Ankeny. The site is supposed to offer an organized, worker-friendly area where day laborers can offer their services to potential employers.
The delay, however, came as a surprise to many involved in the project. Carmen Rubio, the mayor's primary liaison to VOZ, says she only received word of the delay this past Friday, a scant four days before the site was supposed to open.
"Everyone up until Friday believed the site would be open Tuesday, May 6," Rubio says. "Nonetheless, we have full confidence in VOZ and are looking forward to the opening."
Since the project was approved in late March, the mayor's office had been taking a hands-off approach to the site, putting its trust in Sosa and VOZ to handle the logistics of the operation.
Rubio now wants to make sure the mayor's office is doing more to offer VOZ whatever guidance they need. "Because this is the first time VOZ is managing a project, more technical assistance may be required," she says. "There's going to be more regular checkups now."
Other city officials involved in the project remain optimistic about the site's eventual opening, and tried to extinguish any concerns the delay was the result of poor planning.
"One shouldn't cast judgment on VOZ's ability to manage," insists Ty Kovatch, Commissioner Randy Leonard's chief of staff. Last week—before the delay was announced—Leonard pushed an emergency ordinance that exempted the day laborer site from several building codes, to expedite the process.
Some business owners adjacent to the proposed site, however, are frustrated with the overall project—and this delay is just the most recent issue. "When the site was approved and we asked the city for sufficient time to write up a Good Neighbor Agreement [GNA], the city kept saying the date was set and there was nothing they could do," complains Darrell Chasteen, of Precision Motor Car. "This just shows what the city said was crap, and the date could've been moved."
That said, most business owners in the area are pleased they will now have the opportunity to finish the agreement with VOZ before the site opens. They currently expect to have something ready to be signed by June. Teri Pierson, one of two Good Neighborhood Agreement facilitators, says the process is moving along and believes "the sides are making good progress."