This morning, I came across a Nov 15th article in the Cape Cod Times, "Chatham History Coming Alive" by K.C. Myers. The article reports on an interesting CPA-funded project in Chatham - preservation of the historic Marconi/RCA Wireless Receiving Station. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was constructed in 1914. More interesting, though, than the project itself was the news that the state just passed special legislation to exempt the property from the prevailing wage law.
On Friday, Gov. Deval Patrick signed special legislation allowing the Marconi Maritime Center to be exempt from the prevailing wage law requiring all municipal projects to pay union wages. This means local contractors who don't pay at that wage level, and so generally cost 25 to 30 percent less, can bid on the job, according to Frank Messina, Marconi center vice president.
"It will save us about $100,000," he said. "And it has great implications for other nonprofits."
State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, sponsored the legislation, which applies only to this project.
According to the article, the property was purchased by the Town of Chatham and was restored through the use of CPA funds. It seems there is more work to do to convert the building into the planned museum.
The special legislation exempts work that is funded by private funds from having to comply with the prevailing wage law. The text of the special legislation (House Bill #3823) below can be found at http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/house/186/ht03pdf/ht03823.pdf:
SECTION 1. Any and all leasehold improvements without the use of public funds undertaken at the National Register Property known as the Marconi RCA Wireless Receiving Station in the town of Chatham by private parties shall be exempt from Section 38K of Chapter 7 and Chapter 149 of the General Laws. Said land is shown as parcel 11J-7 on assessors’ maps 10J and 11J.
In an article that I wrote last year for the Community Preservation Coalition, I summarized the state's procurement laws and described how they apply to CPA projects. The article describes how work on town-owned land (even when administered by a private entity) would normally be held to procurement and prevailing wage laws.
So what makes the Marconi site so unique that it warrants special legislation to exempt it from prevailing wage laws? Perhaps there is a solid justification. It would be very interesting to know.
Would other properties around the state also warrant filing legislation for similar exemptions?