A Schoharie County road construction firm is suing the state Department of Transportation for the second time, alleging the department bid out a major roadwork project using the same union labor requirement that was rejected by a judge the first time the project was halted by legal action.
The Albany law firm of Couch-White on Thursday issued a news release saying it has begun litigation to challenge the DOT’s administration of a $65 million road and bridge reconstruction project planned for Route 17 in Orange County.
The project became the center of controversy after Lancaster Development of Richmondville, an “open shop” or non-union company, failed to win the job despite offering the state a bid roughly $4.5 million cheaper than the winning bidder. Lancaster said it didn’t get the job because the company sent its bid documents back with a caveat that it wouldn’t sign a project labor agreement requiring at least 85 percent of the work to be done by union workers.
The company filed a lawsuit last year, and state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi ruled in March of this year that the DOT hadn’t adequately justified the need for a PLA.
The DOT issued requests for proposals on the job again and was expected to let out jobs Thursday. A call and emails to DOT officials were not immediately returned.
Lancaster Development President Mark Galasso — who also serves as mayor of Cobleskill — said Thursday he doesn’t see any motivation by the state to save taxpayers money on roadwork. He said it’s his understanding that the DOT is using a fresh study and report to bolster its claim that a PLA is needed.
The study the DOT used to justify the first required PLA didn’t pass muster in court, leading to the initial contract being nullified by the judge.
“They conduct another study that, once again, says a PLA is justified, and they go forward blindly,” Galasso said.
He said he wouldn’t speculate on what’s motivating these decisions.
“I’ll leave that to the conspiracy theorists to figure out,” Galasso said.
He said the company didn’t bid on the project the second time, though his employees could use the work.
“We are not at capacity right now, everybody’s looking for work,” he said.
Galasso said he doesn’t contend PLAs are illegal, just that one is not required for this particular job.
“All we’re hoping to do is force DOT to bid it the way it should have been bid the first time: open competition, the lowest, reasonable bidder, period,” Galasso said.