Westmoreland County to award $1M paving contract despite appeal over union requirement
Westmoreland County’s Democratic commissioners said Tuesday they intend to award a $1 million contract to pave local roads as a potential legal challenge looms against a policy that critics contend prohibits non-union companies from securing government work.
A lawyer for Tresco Paving Corp. of Plum, in a letter to commissioners last week, appealed the county’s decision to reject a bid the company submitted in early July. The appeal, according to Tresco attorney George C. Miller Jr., is based on a ruling issued this year by the state’s Commonwealth Court that invalidated a contract awarded by PennDOT. The court found in favor of two contractors who sued the state agency claiming it was prevented from securing a job because of PennDOT’s project labor agreement that barred non-union shops from seeking the contract.
“Stated broadly, TPC’s bid protest takes issue with the requirement that successful bidders comply with (a project labor agreement) … because that document, as written, acts as a means to emasculate the benefits of competitive bidding …,” Miller wrote.
The company asked county commissioners to reject all bids submitted for the paving work and reissue the request for proposals without requiring successful bidders sign a project labor agreement.
Commissioners Gina Cerilli and Ted Kopas in 2016 signed an agreement with the Pittsburgh Regional Building and Construction Trades Council that calls for higher work standards and prohibits work stoppages. The agreement mandates contractors hired by the county for projects in excess of $150,000 to meet a set of requirements and standards for its workers and includes a provision that companies have apprenticeship programs.
Commissioner Charles Anderson, a Republican, voted against the agreement. On Tuesday, he said it bars non-union firms from seeking county work.
“It’s an opportunity to repeal it and reassess where we are. We’ve been losing money on the project labor agreement for the last three years,” Anderson said of Tresco’s appeal.
Cerilli and Kopas said the paving contract would be awarded Thursday.
“We looked it over, but every situation is different,” Cerilli said of the court ruling. She declined further comment citing a potential legal challenge of the project labor agreement.
The county received five bids for the paving work, and officials recommended the $1 million bid from Derry Construction Co. Inc. be accepted. Tresco’s bid was rejected, commissioners said, because it did not include a signed project labor agreement. The value of Tresco’s bid was not publicly disclosed.
Vince Tresco Jr., company vice president, said Tuesday his company’s bid was lower but declined to provide a specific dollar amount.
“This is the 10th bid they’ve rejected over the last three years. They could have saved over $250,000,” Tresco said. “We’re not anti-union, but I legally cannot sign a (project labor) agreement.” Tresco claims the agreement violates state labor laws.
The project labor agreement has been a partisan issue in Westmoreland County for more than a decade. A Democratic majority of the board of commissioners first instituted a project labor agreement in the 2000s, but it was rescinded in 2012 by an Anderson-led GOP majority.
Kopas defended the county’s project labor agreement Tuesday, saying it assures quality work. He said Tresco’s bid was opened and denied the claim it offered the cheapest price for the work.
“It appeared to be higher than the bid we are awarding,” Kopas said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .