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Is It Discrimination
Or Competition?

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — June 1, 2004 – Private contractors could be out of big-time municipal contracts if legislation before the Village of Monticello Board goes through.
The board will be holding a public hearing June 7 on a bill similar to one passed in a narrow vote by the Town of Thompson Board last week.
Thompson passed a law banning non-union contractors from municipal contracts over $225,000, unless they joined the apprentice program. The village would do the same for contracts over $300,000
There are two catches, said Smalls Plumping and Heating co-owner Dan Smalls of Monticello: no apprentice program exists, and if it did, it would cost more than it is worth to the contractors.
Sullivan County BOCES and Sullivan County Community College are supposed to provide the programs but haven’t done so, said Smalls.
The upcoming firehouse project could very well go over $300,000. Several municipal projects have come close to $225,000, said Smalls.
Smalls said the new law was motivated by “a lot of contributions by local unions to political campaigns.” He called the law “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional.”
Why do some local politicians want to limit the big contracts to unions?
They weren’t talking.
Village of Monticello Mayor James Barnicle refused comment. Anybody who wants to find out more can come to the upcoming board meeting, he said.
Village Board member Victor Marinello said he hadn’t made up his mind on the issue and refused to comment on any aspect of it.
It was the same with new trustee Ariel Escobar. Fellow trustees Scott Schoonmaker and Brian Vandermark could not be reached for comment.
The town board voted 3-2 last week to pass the measure. Supervisor Anthony Cellini, councilmen Peter Briggs and John Washington voted affirmative. The opposition belonged to William Rieber and Peppy Satenstein.
None of the town officials were available for comment.
Smalls said that local contractors are “extremely worried.” He called the proposal “unnecessary.”
He could not fathom any rationale for the law. Apprentices and union workers are paid less than those who work for companies like his, he claimed.
Costs continue to rise, making it likely that more future jobs will go above the $300,000 mark. Development continues to grow in the town.
“It is not in the best interests of the community,” Smalls observed.
Shutting out the contractors is also bad for the taxpayers because it means less competition on the bids – and higher prices for the contracts – he pointed out
Plus, the municipalities are already protected. They don’t have to award certain contracts if the bidding company has a history of poor work.
Mayor Barnicle said at the last board meeting that an apprentice program would help young people learn a valuable trade.
“Anybody who wants to learn trades can learn it here,” countered Smalls.
People have been working in his company since they were 18 and “live a great life,” he added.
The issue may also come before the County Legislature, said Smalls.
Harvey Smith, Sullivan County Commissioner of General Services, commented, “In bidding contracts, the goal is to maximize participation by prospective vendors. Anything that would limit bidding would be a negative . . . to the taxpayer.”
He also backed up the claim by Smalls that the municipalities had a right to throw out bids by companies who have “lousy” past performances.
Concluded Smalls, “It is supposed to be equal. . . . We want to protect out livelihood.”

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