Schenectady County Community College’s plan to expand into the city of Albany hit a bump this week, as the Albany County Legislature put approval of the general contractor for the project on hold.
With the move, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy issued a statement Tuesday saying he was mystified by the delay and noting that no issues had been raised previously. He also feared any delay could threaten to delay the project. He wasn’t available later for comment.
But County Legislator Frank Commisso said the delay was because the low bidder on the contract didn’t meet a long-standing apprenticeship program requirement for contractors on large county projects.
Exactly what the delay means for the SCCC project was unclear Tuesday. But the delay is expected to last at least a month, until the next meeting of the full Albany County Legislature, set for June 10.
SCCC board of trustees Chairwoman Denise Murphy McGraw said Tuesday that she was seeking official word on the reasons for the delay.
When told of Commisso’s concerns, she said apprenticeship programs were important to SCCC as well. But she hopes the issue can be resolved quickly.
The college announced in January that it would be expanding into a satellite location at the Albany County office building.
The plans are to renovate 10,000 square feet on the second floor of 112 State St. that is currently vacant offices. Albany County is doing the renovations and then will lease the space to SCCC.
The goal has been to start with at least 1,000 students and build from there, officials said in announcing the plan. The college expects to offer general education classes at the Albany location and other classes from its programs to be determined.
The Albany satellite location was originally announced to open this fall. Those plans, though, were put off until January 2014 for reasons not related to the delay in signing a general contractor, McGraw said. College officials pushed the date back to ensure that everything with staffing, technology and other issues was done correctly, she said.
With the opening already moved back, McGraw said, there is some leeway on the renovations, but the college still wants to get things going as soon as possible.
Commisso said the low bidder for the general contracting work was Wainschaf Associates, of Rensselaer, at just less than $500,000.
But Commisso said Wainschaf doesn’t meet the county’s longstanding requirement for an apprenticeship program for projects over $250,000. Wainschaf can now prove to the county that it has one. If it doesn’t, Commisso said, the county could go with the next lowest bidder. He said the issue could be resolved by the June 10 meeting.
Other municipalities and the state have similar apprenticeship program requirements. Those supporting the requirements have argued that they help recruit young people into construction trades. Non-union businesses claim that requirements were meant to exclude them from working on some public works projects.
It was unclear Tuesday why Wainschaf hasn’t met the requirement. Company officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Despite the delay in the general contractor approval, the county Legislature approved other parts of the plan, officials said, including the lease agreement and agreements for electrical and mechanical services.