B-C-S: Trades group questions school AC project

Larry Limpf

News Editor

The Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio Foundation has asked the U.S. Department of Labor to open an investigation into an upgrade project of the heating and air condition system at an elementary school in the Benton-Carroll-Salem district.
In a Dec. 21, 2022 letter to Heather Dewitz, then president of the B-C-S school board, the ACTOhio legal counsel said the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has been contacted to ensure that workers on the project have not been “defrauded by their employers.”
In the letter, Rob Dorans, ACTOhio attorney, questions if the upgrade project at R.C. Walters Elementary School has complied with federal law.
“The project was funded by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which requires the district and its contractors to comply with the Davis-Bacon Act,” Dorans wrote.
Certified payroll reports of Climate Tech, Inc., a contractor, “clearly document Davis-Bacon violations,” the letter says because the contractor failed to identify the classification of a “significant portion of its workforces.”
“The Davis-Bacon Act requires that contractors classify workers by a specific trade for their scope of work to ensure they are paid the correct prevailing wage and benefit package. The lack of classification itself is a violation of federal law and likely resulted in workers being defrauded of their rightful wage and benefits package by these contractors,” Dorans wrote.
He also alleges Climate Tech, Inc. failed to comply with the correct journeyperson/apprentice ratio requirements under federal and state law.
“Based on these certified payroll reports, Climate Tech, Inc. did not have the required number of journeypersons on site to supervise the work of the lower skilled apprentices. In fact, these CPRs document two dates (7/29/22 and 8/12/22) in which apprentices performed work on the project, but no journeyperson was present,” the letter says.
In addition, the CPRs don’t appear to include any workers classified as pipefitter/HVAC worker.
“The scope of work involved on the project would have required significant work hours from workers classified as pipefitter/HVAC,” Dorans wrote.
He also questions the district’s decision to proceed with the project without going through competitive contract bidding and notes another contractor, Plug Smart, submitted a change order for $159,927, resulting in an increase of nearly 14 percent in the project cost.
Last week, Dorans told The Press his review of records provided by the school district to his office indicates Plug Smart was hired by the district and Climate Tech was hired as a subcontractor.
“B-C-S by passed the legally required competitive bidding requirements by declaring an ‘urgent necessity.’ BCS claimed that supply chain issues necessitated the declaration of urgent necessity, but no public documents document these purported supply chair issues,” he said, adding his office has been informed an investigator from the Department of Labor has been assigned to the project.
Email messages left for comment with the school administration and board were not returned.


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