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Westchester IDA Looks to Enact New Policy to Ensure Local Labor Works on Incentivized Projects
WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency has proposed a set of new local hire labor policy directives for certain development projects securing incentives from the agency. The policy is geared to ensuring projects that are approved for bond financing or other incentives from the IDA hire 85% of its construction workers from the local area.
Westchester County Director of Operations Joan McDonald, who also serves as the chairperson of the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency, presented the draft local hire labor policy proposal to IDA Directors at a virtual meeting of the agency held on Jan. 28. McDonald said that discussion on the proposal would take place at the agency’s yet -to-be-scheduled meeting in February. She added that it is possible that the IDA could vote to approve the policy at that session.
While stressing that the new local hire labor policy is a proposal and could be subject to change, McDonald noted that in addition to the local hire policy, the new proposal also includes mandatory safety training, drug screening, certification of authorization and insurance requirements, certified payroll records and participation in an apprenticeship program.
“I think these are very good policies and should be discussed and move forward,” McDonald said. She noted that the County Executive is supportive of the policies and recommended the IDA undertake a two-step process whereby the Board would receive the draft proposal at its January session and then discuss and possibly vote on the measure at its February meeting.
In the draft policy, the IDA noted that construction jobs are vital to the overall employment opportunities available to county residents. The draft policy states, “The IDA believes that companies benefitting from its incentive programs should employ local laborers, mechanics, craft persons, journey workers, equipment operators, truck drivers and apprentices, including those who have returned from military service, during the construction phase of projects.”
The proposed regulations were the result of ongoing negotiations for at least the past two years between county government and the county’s building trades. Among some of the key components of the proposed new policy include:
• Applicants receiving IDA benefits shall utilize at least 85% local labor (Bronx, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester) for their approved projects; 35% of which must be Westchester County residents.
Applicants receiving IDA benefits and contractors on the projects would be required to keep records of local vendors, suppliers, contractors, etc. and provide certified payroll records to ensure compliance with the local hire regulations. A monitor would be retained to report to the IDA Executive Director Bridget Gibbons. All costs of the monitor would be the obligation of the applicant, according to the draft policy.
• At the session, Chris Spiers, director of administrative services for Westchester County, also discussed the establishment of an apprenticeship program in connection with the initiative, which the county could provide seed money for.
There are potential exemptions that could be granted including:
• Warranty issues related to installation of specialized equipment whereby the manufacturer requires installation by only approved installers;
• Specialized construction is required and no local contractors or construction workers have the required skills, certifications or training to perform the work;
• No labor is available for the project.
• The contractor requires the use of key or core persons such as supervisors, foremen, or construction workers having special skills that are not available in the “local labor” market.
• Cost Differentials: For projects whose project cost exceeds $15 million, significant cost differential in bid prices whereby the use of local labor and materials increase the subcontract or contract of a particular trade or work scope by at least 20%. The cost threshold for projects under $15 million the cost differential threshold would be 10% under the current proposal.
In both instances, the IDA proposal states, “Every reasonable effort should be made by the applicant and or the applicant’s contractor to get below the (20% or 10%) cost differential including, but not limited to, communicating and meeting with local construction trade organizations, such as the Westchester-Putnam Building and Construction Trades Council and other local Contractor Associations.”
IDA Counsel Michael Curti said that the county in crafting the local hire proposal utilized some of the components of a local-hire policy previously enacted by the Orange County (NY) Industrial Development Agency.
Also, at the IDA session on Jan. 28, the IDA Board approved bond financing and incentives in connection with the redevelopment of Marble Hill, a 133-unit apartment building at 100 Columbus Ave. in Tuckahoe.