Just as light was beginning to show at the end of the long tunnel of trouble that has plagued the animal shelter project since its start, a new hitch has emerged.
A complaint filed with the state Department of Labor claims that the contractor, Carlson Construction Co., did not pay the prevailing wage to a subcontractor who provided professional services.
Gary Pechie, director of wage and work place standards, said the labor department was conducting an investigation and expected it would be concluded in about two weeks.
Until then, he said, he could not comment on how much money was involved. If the investigation confirms that money is owed, failure to pay on Carlson’s part would be a criminal violation and involve referral to the attorney general for collection, Mr. Pechie said.
“It was a project that met the threshold of paying prevailing wage, and we received a complaint from an individual who said he was not paid prevailing wage,” he said.
“The individual who complained was doing many jobs, making it a complicated investigation. I can’t even give a ballpark about the amount of money involved.”
Mr. Pechie said he had notified the town and said the department would appreciate its cooperation.
“If they have any money not paid out on the contract, I would ask them to withhold that until the matter is resolved,” he said. “We will obviously work out with the town in that regard.
“They know who the contractor is,” he said. “It’s one contractor, and they can continue to pay the bills for others until we finish the audit.”
First Selectman Tom Herrmann learned of the complaint in a letter from the Department of Labor and mentioned it as an added agenda item at the Feb. 7 Board of Selectmen meeting.
The labor department might seek payment from the town if it can’t collect it from the contractor, Mr. Herrmann said. He said he inquired as to whether the town can continue to make payments to the bonding company while the investigation continues.
There is $50,000 to $60,000 in escrow to pay the remaining contractors and bills.
“The Department of Labor is doing an investigation and is going to find out what the deficiencies are,” Mr. Herrmann said.
Bob Carlson, owner of Carlson Construction Co. and an Easton resident, could not be reached for comment.
Architect Mark Halstead has been involved with the Easton animal shelter since 2008 and said, “It’s the longest job I have ever had to handle.”
Mr. Halstead remains optimistic and focused on the goal: a certificate of occupancy, possibly as soon as Feb. 28, and the shelter opening soon after that.
Although it’s been painfully slow going, he said, progress has been made in recent months. Installing the cages was a major undertaking and was completed by a town employee. Site work was completed, and all but the last five or six remaining items on the punch list are done, he said.
The town building inspector found that an electrical panel had not been properly labeled. Public Works Director Ed Nagy will hire an electrician to redo the job, Mr. Halstead said. It should take a day or so of work, he said.
Once the CO is issued, the state Department of Agriculture will need to come to make a final inspection.
Mr. Carlson was the low bidder and won the contract with a bid of $530,000, $60,000 lower than the next highest bid and substantially lower than the median bid of $673,000, Mr. Halstead said.
Once the CO is issued, the town will be able to submit the paperwork for state reimbursement of $400,000.
In addition to the $530,000 to Carlson Construction, the town paid another $58,000 for the cages, equipment and lighting, for a grand total of $588,000.
After the $400,000 state bond, the total cost to the town will be $188,000, Mr. Halstead said.
He said it’s a good building, built to residential scale, that fits the neighborhood and will serve the town well for years to come.
Chief James Candee said last fall that it was important to get the shelter open before the winter to prevent continued hardship to Animal Control Officer Kelly Fitch and her staff who remain in the outdated old shelter. There’s a chance they might make it into the new shelter this winter, albeit at the tail end.