Category Archives: Public.Works

The $1.4 Billion Transit Fund the U.S. Government Won’t Release

Source: Laura Bliss, CityLab, August 15, 2018 

Like a nasty pothole, Trump’s unkept promises on road-and-rail dollars have given transportation fans a mild case of whiplash. But there may be worse harm in another infrastructure lapse on the part of this administration, this one more basic: $1.4 billion promised to transit projects across the U.S., still unallocated by the Federal Transit Administration for no clear reason. From New York to Los Angeles, El Paso to Minneapolis, 17 rail and rapid bus projects are awaiting grants promised by the federal appropriations bill signed into law by Trump in March 2018. But the funds have still not been delivered nearly five months later. Make that 144 days, 20 hours, and 15 minutes later, as of this writing, according to a splashy countdown clock built by Transportation For America, a progressive transportation policy organization. …

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Shovels Down: White House Drives Dagger Into Infrastructure Bill
Source: John T. Bennett, Roll Call, May 25, 2018
 
The White House formally drove a dagger into the passage this year of the kind of massive infrastructure package called for by President Donald Trump. What is on the White House’s legislative agenda for the rest of the year includes another tax package, a farm bill, more federal judiciary nominations — and possibly immigration legislation. White House legislative affairs chief Marc Short told reporters Friday that infrastructure will slide into 2019. He blamed election-year politics, saying Democrats have signaled in recent conversations they are uninterested in handing Trump a victory ahead of the midterm elections. …

Opinion: Rebuilding Schools, Bridges—and Lives
Source: Richard Trumka and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2018

As unions, businesses, engineers and policy makers celebrate Infrastructure Week from May 14-21, we’re reflecting on the investments that add value to America. For every dollar a country spends on public infrastructure, it gets back nearly $3, according to a 2014 study from the International Monetary Fund. Keep this in mind when you hear that the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, has called for $2 trillion to repair, renovate or replace water lines, public schools, bridges and mass transit systems. On top of that, another $2 trillion could make America the global leader in the infrastructure technologies of the future, such as high-speed rail and smart utilities. … When you see that the ASCE’s infrastructure report card gives the nation overall a D+, don’t hang your head. The U.S. can get that grade up. But it won’t happen with a plan like President Trump’s , which would cut Washington’s contribution to infrastructure projects from 80% to 20%, quadrupling the burden on cash-strapped cities and states. The true way forward is to do the opposite: Put the federal government back in the business of building America’s future. …

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P3 bill signals new infrastructure path for New Jersey

Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, August 15, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
Legislation signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to expand the state’s use of public-private partnerships lays the groundwork for increased infrastructure investments throughout the state, supporters say. The bipartisan bill Murphy signed Tuesday enables local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges to enter into P3s for capital projects. P3 opportunities in New Jersey previously only applied to public colleges and universities. …

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New Jersey bill seeks P3 expansion
Source: Andrew Coen, Bond Buyer, April 13, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
New Jersey lawmakers are pushing again for an increase in the use of public-private partnerships to jump-start infrastructure improvements in the cash-strapped state. Two and a half years after former Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed an expansion of New Jersey’s P3 program, a state senate committee advanced legislation on April 5 that if enacted would permit localities to enter into P3 agreements for building and highway infrastructure projects. The measure would make local governments, school districts, public authorities and state colleges eligible to enter into P3s where the private entity would assume full or partial financial and administrative responsibility for capital projects. …

These U.S. Workers Are Being Paid Like It’s the 1980s

Source: Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, May 25, 2018
 
Thanks to a web of loopholes and limits, the federal government has been green-lighting hourly pay of just $7.25 for some construction workers laboring on taxpayer-funded projects, despite decades-old laws that promise them the “prevailing wage.” Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Labor has formally given approval for contractors to pay $7.25 for specific government-funded projects in six Texas counties, according to letters reviewed by Bloomberg. Those counties are among dozens around the nation where the government-calculated prevailing wage listed for certain work—such as by some carpenters in North Carolina, bulldozer operators in Kansas and cement masons in Nebraska—is just the minimum wage. …

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Inviting Private Sector to Build Roads Raises Wage Questions
Source: Chris Opfer and Jasmine Ye Han, Daily Labor Report, April 13, 2018 (Subscription Required)
 
The Trump administration wants the private sector to take the wheel on many U.S. road and other upgrades, raising questions about whether construction workers will still get the compensation required under federal contracts. The Davis-Bacon Act obligates contractors to pay workers on federally funded construction projects a local prevailing wage and certain benefits set by the Labor Department. The law is meant to ensure that the government doesn’t shortchange workers. But some Republican lawmakers, businesses, and conservative advocacy groups say “prevailing wages” exceed market rates and bloat taxpayer-funded construction projects as a handout to labor unions. Although the law isn’t likely to be scrapped anytime soon, lobbyists have stayed busy pushing to get Davis-Bacon provisions explicitly included in new spending legislation. That activity ticked up following a post-recession infrastructure spending binge and kept the questions coming about which projects require prevailing wages. …

Trump’s Davis-Bacon Quote Turns Construction Industry Heads
Source: Elliot T Dube, Bloomberg BNA, April 14, 2017
 
Construction industry stakeholders got a jolt when President Donald Trump recently approached what a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official called a “third rail issue” for building trades unions: changes to the Davis-Bacon Act. Trump said in a New York Times interview published April 5 that he was “going to make an announcement in two weeks” regarding Davis-Bacon. The law requires contractors on federally funded construction projects to pay prevailing wages for a given area. …

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CSEA plans for winter storm, warmer contract talk

Source: Rikki N. Massand, Garden City News, January 4, 2018 

The time of year when municipal operations including salt spreading and snow cleanup to landscaping come into focus is upon Garden City, amidst a labor negotiations standstill between the civil service employee union and the village that is now pushing five full years. … Robert LoDolce, president of the CSEA Rank & File Unit Local 882 (Garden City) unit spoke with the News a day before the snowfall. … He stated that employees who may have decades of experience in the Village of Garden City have built up a vested interest and commitment to their jobs and municipal operations, while outside contractors are operating on their individual business needs and budgets.  The CSEA Local 882 Rank & File has worked without a contract with the village since 2012 and LoDolce says the workforce diligently carries out all their responsibilities in Garden City. … This week he advised that due to allocation of the workforce related to subcontractors the village has brought in, the CSEA has filed an improper labor practice claim that will be heard in 2018 by P.E.R.B., the Public Employees Relations Board “regarding the outsourcing of bargaining units’ type of work to private contractor. He specifically refers to the contract for Con-Kel Landscaping that has been bid recently by the Village of Garden City after their initial year of work, and the scope of work is set to expand from 91 acres of passive greenspace areas (village parcels) to 114 municipal acres. …

New York’s prevailing wage law: A cost-benefit analysis

Source: Russell Ormiston, Dale Belman, and Matt Hinkel, Economic Policy Institute, November 1, 2017

… State prevailing wage laws across the country have increasingly been assailed by those who appeal to lawmakers’ other responsibility—minimizing taxpayer costs—in an attempt to weaken or repeal these policies. These nationwide campaigns are built almost entirely upon a single argument: higher wages must equate to higher taxpayer costs. … And with a recent publication by the Empire Center (McMahon and Gardner 2017), it has become apparent that some in New York will attempt to pitch the same narrative to state lawmakers. There’s one problem. According to the most advanced economic research on state prevailing wage laws, the simple narrative largely isn’t true.

To separate fact from fiction as it relates to New York’s prevailing wage law, this report provides a thorough cost-benefit analysis of state policy relying extensively on independent, peer-reviewed research. As summarized in this report, academic economists from around the country have made prevailing wage laws a research priority over the last 15 years. In study after study, economists have found no evidence that these laws have had any significant cost effects on the biggest drivers of New York’s capital budget: highways and institutional buildings (e.g., schools). …

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Denver’s 34-year deal at DIA might be the city’s first big public-private partnership, but don’t expect it to be the last

Source: Jon Murray, Denver Post, August 13, 2017
 
Denver International Airport’s proposed $1.8 billion terminal deal is poised to launch the city into a different kind of contracting that hands over some control of a publicly owned space to private interests for decades.  Get ready: That complex, 34-year contract could be a harbinger of things to come. Mayor Michael Hancock and other city leaders see promise in public-private partnerships, which infuse both private money and management into public projects, as they prepare to build out the National Western Center with large new event venues, expand the convention center and plot big changes to the Denver Performing Arts Complex. …

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Denver wants to create an office for public-private partnerships, and City Council fears being cut out of the process
Source: Erica Meltzer, Denverite, July 28, 2017
 
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock wants to create an office within city government that will screen, vet and shepherd public-private partnerships related to major city projects, like the redevelopment of the National Western Center and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts — and other projects the city might not even have anticipated yet.  Under the proposal, City Council would get to set the broad parameters of deals, but contracts would be finalized at the administrative level.  The effort is causing major concerns among some City Council members about what authority they’ll give up if the idea goes forward. That concern is only exacerbated as they debate the contract for the Great Hall renovations at Denver International Airport, a public-private partnership that will see Ferrovial and its development partners get paid as much as $1.8 billion over a 34-year period for a $650 million to $770 million project. …

A.C. trash collectors angry service privatized despite council

Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 17, 2017
 
Angry workers and residents criticized the state’s move to privatize trash collection Wednesday night during a long public-comment portion of a City Council meeting.  The meeting came two days after officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed the council to approve a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental of New Jersey, a company in Gloucester County. … City officials say the deal will save the financially-troubled city $1.1 million this year and won’t require layoffs. Sanitation workers will fill vacant positions in the Public Works Department, city and state officials said.  The council tabled a vote to outsource the service three weeks ago after some council members said they never received a cost-savings analysis. …

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State privatizes Atlantic City trash collection without City Council
Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 16, 2017
 
Officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed City Council on Monday to privatize the city’s trash collection.  The state authorized the city administration to award a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental, a private company that will handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The decision came nearly three weeks after the council pulled a vote to outsource the service.  State Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham informed Council President Marty Small of the decision in a letter dated Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Press of Atlantic City. … The move marks the first time the state has used such power over the council. The state took over the city’s finances in November through the Municipal Stabilization & Recovery Act, which gave state officials authority to pass or repeal any council resolution. Cunningham’s letter specifically cited the state’s power to “procure services” on behalf of the city.

… City administration officials said the contract to Gold Medal will save the city $1.1 million per year without requiring layoffs. The council considered the contract to Gold Medal on April 26, but balked at outsourcing the service after some councilmen said they didn’t have enough information. Those council members, including Councilman Frank Gilliam, had said they never received an analysis comparing the contract to the cost of doing the service in-house. Gilliam said Monday that he had since received a report from city Public Works Director Paul Jerkins, but said the cost analysis didn’t have “legitimate numbers” that justify the savings claimed by the city and state. …

Atlantic City Council to consider privatizing trash collection
Source:Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, April 25, 2017

City Council will consider privatizing trash collection, awarding a contract for a bike loop and amending rules regarding rolling chairs Wednesday evening. The council is scheduled to vote on awarding Gold Environmental of New Jersey a three-year, $7.2 million contract to handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The measure is intended to cut costs in the cash-strapped city. The city’s 2017 introduced budget listed a $393,313 savings from its Public Works Department this year. …

Prevailing wage foes prepare new petition drive

Source: Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News, May 15, 2017
 
A pro-business group pushing to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law has drafted new petition language and is seeking advance approval from the state to begin collecting signatures.  The Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to consider the form of a petition submitted Protecting Michigan Taxpayers that would lift a 1965 law that generally requires contractors to pay their workers union-rate wages and benefits on state-financed or state-sponsored projects. … The committee raised more than $1.7 million for a similar effort two years ago but failed to advance its initiated legislation after paid circulators gathered an estimated 161,781 invalid signatures, including many duplicates.  Republican state legislative leaders want to repeal the prevailing wage law, which they argue inflates the cost of taxpayer-funded construction projects. But GOP Gov. Rick Snyder has threatened to veto any legislation that reaches his desk, suggesting it could hurt his efforts to build interest in skilled trades careers. …

Valley Stream Contractor Charged With $700K Wage Theft

Source: Timothy Bolger, Long Island Press, May 4, 2017

A contractor from Valley Stream was arrested for allegedly cheating 10 workers out of nearly $700,000 in wages and benefits on taxpayer-funded New York City public school construction projects, authorities said. Vickram Mangru was charged with felony counts failure to pay the prevailing rate of wage or supplements and falsifying business records. He was released without bail following his initial court appearance. … Prosecutors said Mangru paid workers “well below” legally mandated prevailing wage rates on city Department of Education projects in the Bronx between December 2012 and February ‘15. … He was previously debarred and banned for a five-year period from performing public work projects by the city Comptroller’s Office for failing to pay proper prevailing wages to workers, prosecutors said. But the suspect instead changed the name of his company and continued allegedly underpaying workers, authorities said. …

Nearly Half of Construction Firms Hired by Maryland Department of General Services Committed OSHA Violations in the Past 10 Years

Source: Public Citizen, March 14, 2017

Nearly half of the major construction contracts awarded by the state of Maryland’s Department of General Services (DGS) have gone to companies that were cited for worker safety violations, according to a study issued today by Public Citizen. The study examines Maryland DGS-awarded contracts over the past five years, while simultaneously examining available contractor safety and health incident reports over a 10-year period from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) online database. Over the past five years, 46 percent of firms that have been awarded major construction contracts worth $100,000 or more by the Maryland DGS have been cited for worker safety violations by OSHA. Moreover, 35 percent of all DGS-approved vendors have been cited by OSHA for “serious” violations, meaning that OSHA found a hazard that “could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm.” Three of the firms receiving OSHA violations were cited for violations in association with fatalities that occurred on their work sites. Two contractors have had employees die – in Maryland and West Virginia – after being crushed by improperly placed barriers. An employee of a third contractor in Maryland was struck and killed by a car. … The violations in the analysis occurred throughout all of the contractors’ work over the past 10 years, both public and private. Contractors that have been cited have received nearly $146 million in contracts from DGS alone. They have received $370,297 in OSHA fines over the past decade. …

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