When building the Upstate Medtech Center, the GCEDC should have ensured prevailing wage was paid to construction workers, according to a state Department of Labor (DOL) letter issued in November.
The letter came to light following an Authorities Budget Office report critical of GCEDC's staff compensation practices.
It was written by John D. Charles, associate attorney for the DOL, and issued in response to an unnamed person who asked that the department look into the matter. It concludes that the department's opinion was based solely on the material provided by that person and should not be relied on as a final answer.
Ask for a response to the DOL letter, GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde issued the following statement:
"While the LDC (Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp.) wholly disagrees with the Department of Labor's initial conclusions, we are actively working with them to ensure that they have all of the facts and circumstances of the Medtech project. A final determination has not been made by DOL with respect to the issues and questions raised."
Longtime local contractor Vito Gautieri is known to be concerned about how the bid for construction of the Medtech Center was awarded. It ultimately went to Batavia-based D.A. Tufts Co.
In an interview last week, when asked if the letter from Charles was addressed to him, Gautieri said, "No comment."
He then went on to complain about GCEDC forming a nonprofit corporation -- Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. (GGLDC) -- as owner and agency developing the project. He said if that's how government agencies are going to operate on construction projects, then "we might as well pull up our shingles and move out of town."
At issue is compliance with New York's prevailing wage laws, which require employees on public works projects to be paid an hourly rate based on a prevailing wage schedule set by the state.
The DOL letter says that according to information given to the agency, the GGLDC's Medtech project does not meet the standards for waiving prevailing wage.
It says that because the project was at first initiated by a public agency (GCEDC wholly owns the GGLDC and is the project's actual owner), it is not just a temporary title holder. In addition, it is not acting "merely as a mechanism to facilitate financing." If it were just a temporary titleholder and holding title merely to facilitate financing, according to the letter, perhaps paying prevailing wage would not be required.