Area labor unions and the Albany County legislators they forced to rebid a small contract to convert office space in downtown Albany for a satellite campus for Schenectady County Community College have needlessly cost Albany taxpayers $86,000 — a 17 percent premium over the initial low bid — and may have jeopardized the project’s ability to be finished on time.
Why? Because the county’s original contract specifications failed to stipulate the inclusion of an apprentice program, proof of which has been required on county project specs for the last couple of years. But this failure was almost meaningless since state law also requires such programs on public projects; the county could have simply insisted that the contractor provided proof when the contract was approved (instead of with its bid).
Indeed, that’s what County Manager Dan McCoy urged legislators to do last month, when the Greater Capital Region Building and Construction Trades Council, a coalition of local unions, raised a fuss and sought to have the contract specs rebid. But Democrats on the Legislature refused, and now taxpayers are on the hook. (There go at least part of the savings from contracting with SCCC over the more-expensive Hudson Valley Community College for a downtown Albany community college program.)
And if the contractor — Wainschaf Associates of Rensselaer — runs into almost any wrinkles during construction, there’s a chance the new SCCC campus won’t even be ready for its planned January, 2014 opening.
Curiously, Wainschaf was also the original low bidder. Albany County officials speculate that its price, and that of the other bidders, went up because of the tightened construction schedule: Where the original specs indicated work could begin in either June or July, contractors were no longer given an option: They have to start in July. (The contract won’t even come before the Legislature until next week at the earliest.)
Why the unions made such a fuss over Wainschaf is anyone’s guess, but the fact it is a nonunion contractor likely had something to do with it. Its workers would have been paid prevailing wage under the first contract, though, and they will under the second one as well. More than anything, this seems like a case of politicians pandering to labor.