By Dan Hust
CALLICOON Those behind a year’s worth of planning for a Callicoon beautification project are worried it may be for naught, but county officials aren’t calling it quits yet.
“I’m not going to say it’s dead in the water,” Delaware Supervisor Ed Sykes remarked at May’s town board meeting, “but I’m really disappointed, and I’d say many others are, too.”
For the past year, town officials and volunteers have collaborated on an effort to repair and enhance a retaining wall along Lower Main Street in the heart of downtown Callicoon.
The design would replace the railroad ties in the wall with stone, rework the flowers and shrubbery to make room for benches, add fencing and an interpretive panel, and reconfigure the parking lot and an existing stairway.
The project is budgeted at $42,000, said the town’s grants coordinator, Kara McElroy.
“Half of the money is coming from Sullivan Renaissance,” she said, utilizing $20,000 of the $25,000 Golden Feather Award the Callicoon Business Association (CBA) and other Callicoon groups won in last year’s Renaissance competition, plus a $2,000 Category C grant from this year’s Renaissance program.
The remaining $20,000, however, is coming via the NY Main Street Program. That’s being funnelled through the county, which told town officials recently that Delaware must handle the grant.
“They say the state won’t allow the CBA to administer the grant,” Sykes explained.
If the CBA were allowed to handle the grant monies, prevailing wage would not have to be paid to whatever contractor ends up winning the bid for the labor-intensive job.
But if a government agency or municipality (like Delaware) administers the funding, prevailing wage likely must be paid.
And that, said Sykes, could hike the project’s costs far past the $42,000 budget by as much as 40 percent, or an additional $25,000.
“I really don’t see it getting off the ground with another $25,000,” Sykes remarked.
The disappointment and discouragement at the board meeting were palpable, and McElroy indicated that even if the project moves forward, it may not be in time to be a player in this year’s Renaissance competition.
Sykes seemed to feel the county and state were being too strict.
“We’re not talking about $4 million,” he said afterwards. “We’re talking about $40,000.”
Sykes indicated the county had a choice whether or not to enforce the prevailing-wage requirement.
When contacted later, the county’s grants administration director, Art Hussey, explained that the state had previously said that requirement doesn’t apply for such projects (another one in Barryville may be affected), but the county’s planning commissioner, Luiz Aragon, e-mailed the state seeking clarification.
The state’s Office of Community Renewal replied this week, pointing the county to its updated NY Main Street Program Guidelines.
“If the project includes public work contracts covered by Article 8 of the Labor Law or a building service contract covered by Article 9 thereof,” reads page 14 of that guide, “... contractor and its subcontractors must pay at least the prevailing wage rate and pay or provide the prevailing supplements, including the premium rates for overtime pay, as determined by the State Labor Department in accordance with the Labor Law.”
Bidding for the project begins today (Friday) with paying prevailing wage as a requirement.
“The county will follow all the rules and regulations that govern this grant,” Aragon confirmed.