Governor signs bill into law allowing volunteers on public projects; Carl Junction pavilion prompted bill

Governor signs bill into law allowing volunteers on public projects; Carl Junction pavilion prompted bill

A new Missouri law allows volunteers to help in the construction of public works projects.

The bill introduced by Representative Charlie Davis was prompted by a Department of Labor ruling over a simple pavilion in Carl Junction.

The pavilion in Memorial Park honors Jean Roy. It was Cultivators Garden Club project that a Neosho construction company volunteered to build for free. It almost didn’t happen.

Chamber of Commerce Director Gary Stubblefield says, “It seemed like a pretty easy deal, but then someone questioned, should we pay prevailing wage.”

It would have nearly tripled the price.

Jane Mitchell, a garden club member says, ” They built one in center creek park and it cost $21 thousand (dollars) and they paid prevailing wage.”

Missouri State Representative Charlie Davis says, ” The Department of Labor made a ruling that said yes, public works projects have to be paid prevailing wage.”

Representative Davis says under that ruling cities like Joplin which had 190 thousand volunteer hours after the tornado, would have had to pay for the effort.

Davis says it was calculated that, “The city of Joplin would have to fork up about $57 million dollars to pay those volunteers.”

He sponsored legislation to clarify the ruling and says, “What we ended up having to do, is make sure that a volunteer, if they sign a document that says I’m doing this as volunteer labor, then they can actually do it for volunteer.”

An amendment offers protections for workers so employers can’t force them to volunteer.

It’s all good news for those who put the pavilion in Memorial park.

Mitchell says, “What did happen was certainly a victory for volunteer organizations like our garden club who had no desire except to build a pavilion for the benefit of the entire community.”

The next project here at Memorial park will be to put a bridge across a small creek. And it too will be done by volunteers.

Stubblefield says, “It kind of sparked this new surge in volunteerism and so for us this was lemonade. We got the pavilion. We got new volunteers stepping forward. We got more donors, some more things will be happening in this park all because of this case. And now it’s gone to the point, it’s going to help every Missouri community .”

Davis says the bill passed with bi-partisan support. It also won support of the unions who appreciated clarification of the issue.

Some bigger city lawmakers said without the new law, the court ruling could have prevented groups from giving playgrounds to parks, cleaning streets or doing other volunteer projects.