The state’s new prevailing wage threshold slipped the minds of Waupaca County planners, leaving them with no choice but to postpone an estimated $151,000 worth of projects.
Roger Holman, director of the Waupaca County Parks & Recreation Department, said he thinks the new threshold is too low, but that’s no excuse for disregarding state law.
“We can not like it,” he said, “but we still have to abide by it.”
As of Jan. 1, contractors are required by state law to prove they are paying prevailing wages to employees working on public works projects valued at $25,000 or more. The previous threshold was $234,000.
Prevailing wages are based on annual contractor surveys that show what workers are paid on private projects. The state uses the results to set a prevailing wage in each county for a particular type of job on public projects.
Holman said he knew the threshold change was coming, but he and county planners forgot about it when putting together the bid documents for the three projects. The now-postponed projects are construction of two boat launches, estimated at $60,000 and $40,000, and a new snowmobile bridge, estimated at $51,000.
“I still had the old threshold in my head,” Holman said. “No notification came out to remind us, so we forgot.”
Bids originally were due Thursday, but the county now needs the state to set the prevailing wage rate in the area, Holman said. That review will take 30 to 50 days, he said, and the county will have to rebid the projects.
The county likely will not award contracts until May, as opposed to the original award date of March 3, Holman said.
That is a painful delay for contractors desperately seeking jobs during the slow season, said Jason Norkett, owner and operator of Waupaca-based Centerline Contracting.
“Right now, we don’t have any work,” he said. “We plan on bidding again when it comes out, but right now it’s a matter of looking for other stuff and dealing with a longer dry spell.”
Chris Johnson, estimator with Waupaca-based Faulks Bros. Construction Inc., called the delay frustrating because when the construction season gets busier, fewer people are available within the company to work on bids.
Wade Wisnefske, owner of Clintonville-based Wisnefske Excavating LLC, and Todd Orr, sales representative with Waupaca-based Carew Concrete & Supply Co. Inc., agreed.
“The boat launch would be a small job for the company,” Orr said. “But it provides a nice transition to the busy season.”
Each company representative said he will be interested in the projects when the county rebids them.
Holman said he understands the frustration, but it was better for the county to postpone the projects than proceed without enforcing the prevailing-wage law. He said if the county was found in violation of the law, it would have been on the hook to make up the difference in wages to workers.
“It’s our error,” Holman said. “We were wrong.”