Construction of a high-speed natural gas pipeline through the area is in limbo after the Macon County (Ill.) Board voted 17-2 Thursday to table a measure to give Rockies Express approval to bore under county roads.

Board member Jay Dunn, D-Decatur, made a motion to table the measure because he alleged the company has not allowed local union contractors and workers the chance to participate in the project. Dunn is the president of the Decatur Building and Construction Trades Council.

Although board member Don Westerman, R-Decatur, voted in favor of tabling the measure, he questioned whether the board's action was right to tie the issue of hiring local workers to whether the county should give Rockies approval to put pipeline under county roads.

"Maybe we're not quite as smart as we think we are," Westerman said.

Board Chairman Bob Sampson, D-Decatur, responded that, regardless of the ultimate fate of the pipeline, the board had sent a message that it is standing up for the working people of Macon County.

Rockies spokesman Allen Fore contended much of Dunn's allegations were false and said it is the county board that is hurting union workers by delaying the project.

Fore said the company is not using union contractors to build the company's $35 million compressor facility in Christian County near Blue Mound, but Macon County workers on the pipeline would be union.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday gave official permission to begin construction on a stretch of the pipeline in and around Macon County. It is unknown how the county's decision will affect when construction begins.

Fore, who attended the meeting but did not address the board, said he was disappointed that Sampson did not call on him during the meeting to respond to the charges. He said he did not get up to speak during the public comment session at the end of the meeting because "they already did their damage."

Sampson said he did not intentionally exclude Rockies officials from discussion as people who want to speak typically let the board know. He said he would welcome public discussions with Rockies officials.

Thursday was not the first time county and pipeline officials butted heads.

The board previously voted against construction approval for the Rockies pipeline because of a dispute over the planned path around Mount Zion near a proposed beltway project and had lobbied federal officials for a new route.

The county ultimately failed to convince regulators to force Rockies to change its path, but the company is supposed to use thicker pipes when constructing the pipeline under the proposed highway.

Board members Phil Hogan, R-Dalton City, and Merv Jacobs, R-Decatur, voted against tabling the measure to allow it to go forward for a vote. David Wolfe, D-Oakley, and Verzell Taylor, D-Decatur, were absent.

Copyright (c) 2008, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.