County legislators are going to seek new bids for the main contract to renovate office space for a Schenectady County Community College satellite location in downtown Albany, prompting concern about whether the project will be completed in time for classes to begin in January.
The Legislature’s Law Committee failed to act on a resolution authorizing an agreement with Wainschaf Associates — the lowest bidder for the project at $498,000 — over concerns the Rensselaer company didn’t meet a relatively new county requirement for contractors to have an apprenticeship program for all work costing in excess of $250,000. As a result, the Legislature will rebid the project with the apprenticeship stipulation included and choose the least costly proposal during a special meeting scheduled for June 10.
“It’s not optimal,” acknowledged County Attorney Thomas Marcelle. “We certainly believe a project of this importance that benefits so many people should have gone forward.”
But a majority of the committee thought otherwise. Some feared awarding the contract to Wainschaf could expose the county to legal troubles.
Marcelle disagreed. He advised legislators to waive the apprenticeship requirement, since it wasn’t stipulated in the bid package and none of the five bidders included it as part of their submissions.
“But they chose not to,” he said.
Still, Marcelle remains optimistic the county will be able to generate new bids and award the project to a company by early June. If all goes as planned, work could begin in July, when the project was initially scheduled to begin.
“We are optimistic this will start on time,” he said this week.
County Legislator Christopher Higgins, a member of the Law Committee, wasn’t convinced. His concern over timing prompted him to urge colleagues to advance Wainschaf’s bid with the acknowledgement that the county hadn’t stipulated that bidders show proof of having an apprenticeship program in their initial proposal.
“I don’t think they’re going to have nearly enough time to rebid this,” he said.
The situation has also raised the ire of Gerald Wainman, president and chief executive officer of Wainschaf. He said his company normally doesn’t show proof of having an apprenticeship program until signing a contract for a project.
Wainman said his company is also at a disadvantage now because the other bidders will have a chance to see its proposal. He blamed union influence for stirring concern among legislators and delaying the process — something he believes will ultimately make the project more costly for the county.
“The ones that should be enraged are the taxpayers,” he said. “They’re paying to do this over again because someone in one of the unions went and complained [to the Legislature].”
Plans to establish a satellite location on the second floor of an office building on State Street were initially announced in January. College officials indicated the 10,000 square feet of classroom space and offices leased from Albany County would accommodate about 1,000 students starting in the fall.
But those plans were delayed until January so the college could adequately staff the new location. Denise Murphy McGraw, chairwoman of SCCC’s Board of Trustees, said any further delays could hamper efforts to attract students and faculty at the new location.
“We know they need to do their due diligence,” she said. “It’s just that time is of the essence.”