Cherry Hill Lane RFPs to be re-issued
With members of the Housing Board gathered to open construction bids for the proposed Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing subdivision, an unhappy board Chair Cindy Pappas had some unhappy news for those assembled:
“Unfortunately, our agenda has changed,” Pappas said. “We have received some bids, however, we have a little bump in the road centered around the concept of ‘prevailing wages.’” According to Pappas, the request for proposals that were sent out to contractors, did not specifically include language that states contractors must pay a prevailing wage to their employees, which they must do when municipal funds are being used to fund a project. To complicate matters, Pappas said she had been asked by two prospective contractors if, in fact, the prevailing wages applied to the Cherry Hill Lane project, and she, after asking for some advice, was given two different answers at two different times: the first time the answer was yes, the second one was no.
Pappas and the other members of the board were unsure how this would impact the contractors that had bid on the project. One contractor, said Pappas, flatly stated that if prevailing wages applied he was not interested in pursuing the project. The other bids, however, might possibly have already included prevailing wage numbers in their bottom lines. If so, they could simply send in the same bid.
When asked by member Rosemary Tobin what was meant by prevailing wages, Pappas said it was a way to guarantee anybody working on a municipal project would be treated fairly. “The town is held to a higher standard, to make sure the workers are being paid a decent wage,” she said.
Pappas said that as the RFP was being prepared, she simply did not think of Cherry Hill Lane as a municipal project in the traditional sense, such as a road or sewer project. But given that some municipal funds are involved in the construction, she felt that clarity on the prevailing wage language needed a legal opinion before they moved forward to rebid the project.
There was some discussion at the meeting on Tuesday, April 30, that perhaps language already included in the RFP would have the concept of prevailing wages covered, but no one was willing to take that chance without consulting an attorney. This led Pappas to offer up another complication: the longstanding attorney for the Housing Board, Bill Landry, has just been retained as the town’s Land Use attorney “and he can no longer work for the Housing Board,” said Pappas.
The other concern was that the snafu would push back the start date for the construction phase of the project. The correct language would need to be included in the RFP, the RFP would need to be re-issued, and the project would have to be advertised for a minimum of three weeks. Even with all of that, Pappas was hopeful the project would still get off the ground in the fall.
“We need speed, but I also want it to be right,” said Pappas. This will be the third time the bid will be reissued The first round received bids in amounts far higher than the budget.
Looking for one bright spot, Pappas said, with a wry smile, “Third time’s a charm?”