The Portland City Council will probably have to put off at least one of the items on Wednesday night’s agenda – voting on a proposed tax break for the biotech company ImmuCell – following Tuesday’s announcement by Mayor Ethan Strimling that he’d like to add conditions to the proposal.

But although it may be too late to change the ground rules for the ImmuCell deal, Strimling has raised valid concerns that should be part of future tax increment financing discussions.

The 12-year deal before the council would provide $375,000 in local financing for a $3 million expansion of ImmuCell’s Riverside-area campus. According to its CEO, the animal health company needs a new production facility before it can get federal approval for a natural treatment for mastitis in lactating dairy cows. ImmuCell, which now employs 47 people, would be adding 14 jobs.

The proposal was forwarded to the City Council last week after receiving the unanimous backing of the council’s three-member Economic Development Committee. Now the mayor is calling on councilors to support amendments that put hiring and wage restrictions on the project’s general contractor.

The guidelines proposed by Strimling have a great deal of merit, in and of themselves. To support themselves and their families, skilled workers deserve wages and benefits that meet state “prevailing wage” rates. Another requirement – that the contractor have an established apprenticeship program – will encourage young workers to try their hand at the construction trades, developing quality workers and easing the labor shortage that area contractors have deplored.

And it’s reasonable to mandate that a given percentage of work hours on a municipally subsidized building project go to city residents, as Strimling is urging.

That said, ImmuCell and city Economic Development Committee members have grounds for criticizing the timing of the mayor’s proposal. For ImmuCell, implementing new conditions could further delay the already unwieldy federal drug approval process.

And as Councilor David Brenerman, the panel’s chairman, says, the company has “played by the rules of the council,” and changing the standards relatively late in the day would undercut the city’s credibility and bargaining authority.

Instead, this is an opportunity for Strimling, city planners and the Economic Development Committee to work on fair hiring and wage mandates for all future TIF projects. Spending public money should provide a public benefit, and collaboration can make it happen.