PA Government Cronyism Continues with Rockview Jail PLA

0 July 9, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Here is an interesting update (and documentation of government corruption and cronyism) on the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Benner Township (commonly called the Rockview prison project), which is one of a series of approximately $830 million in jail construction projects the Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) is putting out to bid that may be subject to costly and discriminatory PLAs.

We wrote about PA Senator Corman holding a protest alongside hundreds of local merit shop workers and contractors that will be shut out of building the SCI in Benner Township, Centre County, PA if a PLA is implemented by the DGS (PA Senator Fights Rockview Prison PLA,” 6/24).

Well it looks like calls for fairness, efficiency and open competition have fallen on deaf ears as the PA DGS has issued a memo indicating that there will be a government mandated PLA on the Rockview prison project.

The decision to enter into a PLA for the Rockview prison comes under corrupt questionable circumstances, considering there are very few union members and union contractors operating in the Centre County region according to industry experts and government data.

The results of a a labor feasibility study, commissioned by PA DGS, to determine if a PLA is needed for for the Rockview prison project (“Labor Feasibility Study Re: Construction of a New 2,000 Cell L-3 Medium Security Prison SCI Benner Twp.,” June 2009) and ensuing political shenanigans, have raised the profile of corruption to a new level. The study, conducted by Kevin A. Moore, Esquire of Leisawitz Heller determined that:

…there does not appear to be any data that would support the necessity for the PLA.

…Accordingly, under the present circumstances and wholly limited to the facts presented, a PLA is not necessary for DGS to complete this project as planned.

You may recall that we blogged about The Pennsylvania Business Central article about PA Governor Ed Rendell’s (a huge supporter and beneificary of Big Labor’s political activities) desire for PLAs on state prison construction despite legitimate objections from advocates of local businesses and workers who want to build jails paid for by their tax dollars (“Big Labor’s Propaganda Machine to Decide Fate of Project Labor Agreements on PA Jail Construction,6/2).

Those familiar with the PLA debate know that politics almost always play a role in deciding whether or not PLAs should be mandated on government funded projects.

So it came as no surprise to learn that the DGS commissioned a second labor feasibility study for the Rockview prison project at taxpayer expense by Stephen Herzenberg and Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center (KRC), a union propaganda machine think tank that consistently produces papers and “studies” supporting pro-union policies.

We blogged about the KRC’s  stacked union board (“Fox in the Hen House,” 5/19):

“A majority of KRC’s 20 board members work for labor unions. Those members include Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rick Bloomingdale, United Steelworkers principal Ike Gittlen and Pennsylvania State Building & Construction Trades Council President Frank Sirianni. At least 5 percent of KRC’s funding comes from organized labor.”

In addition, recent U.S. Department of Labor LM-2 reports document that the KRC has received at least $353,161 from organized labor from 2005 to 2008.

Predictably, the KRC paper, “Assessment of the Potential Need for a Project Labor Agreement Covering the SCI Benner Township Prison in Centre County, PA (June 2009), riddled with numerous inaccuracies and pro-union biased conclusions and assumptions worth dissecting at a later time, recommends a PLA.

Based on the analysis above, we find that a PLA would facilitate successful completion of the SCI Benner Township Prison in Centre County.

It is unclear if both studies were commissioned, written and released at the same time or if the KRC study was written after the Moore study results were released.

It is undeniable that the DGS decision to mandate a PLA on the Rockview prison project was politically motivated and partially “justified” by the KRC paper – a biased source.  The entire process  reeks of cronyism and corruption.

Let’s hope that other PA prison projects like the Graterford Prison in Skippack Township, Montgomery County, PA; the new prison in Fayette County; and four additional housing units in Crawford, Forest, Indiana and Northumberland counties are not subjected to a corrupt process and discriminatory PLA that will likely increase the cost of construction between 14 and 20 percent and eliminate opportunities for PA construction workers and their employers.

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