Right-to-work advocate Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has renewed its attack on the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), criticizing commission Director Richard Murray for soliciting bids on the Ohio School for the Blind and School for the Deaf projects that are allegedly 40 percent over-budget.

Former state legislator and now ABC Director of Government Affairs , Bryan Williams, previously charged Murray with union coddling and called for his resignation. In a letter dated July 30, he accuses the OSFC director of misstating the effect of project labor agreements on the School for the Deaf and School for the Blind projects – bids for which he said are now $11 million over budget.

“I write to encourage you to follow the law and throw out all of the bids,” Williams says. “Equally important, you should rebid the project without the discriminatory and anti-competitive use of a project labor agreement.”

The former state legislator and Rep. Kris Jordan (R-Powell), a current member of OSFC, first questioned the PLA-bid projects in June. 

In his letter, Williams also addresses the larger issue of prevailing wage, which is required for state-funded construction.

“If you were to re-bid this project without prevailing wage – as required by law for all other school construction projects – the state would save millions more in needless construction costs,” Williams says.

Murray’s office responded to the letter Monday. Erik Roush, chief of external and legislative affairs, did not dispute Williams’ basic analysis of contractor bids.

“Our preliminary look at the numbers right now – I don’t know if the construction manager has looked at them – is that if they’re more than 10 percent over-budget, they have to be rebid,” he said. “It appears to be going in that direction.”

Roush cautioned however, that it is too early to say what is causing the top-heavy estimates.

“It could be a number of things – material cost, estimates, scheduling – a number of factors go into this,” he said. “We need to continue to work with the construction manager, architect and internal staff. I know they’re doing that analysis now … There are a lot more factors currently at play.”

Roush rejects the notion that PLAs are specifically to blame for estimates’ being over-budget, or that they discriminate between union and non-union firms.

“I don’t think that we can say the project labor agreement caused this. This is already a prevailing wage project – it has to be because it’s a state project,” he said, noting open-shop contractors are free to bid on the jobs if they agree to union terms.

Roush also dismissed Williams’ suggestion that the School for the Blind and School for the Deaf be rebid without the prevailing wage.

“There’s no a way for the state to rebid that without prevailing wage,” Roush said. “The commission has to follow the Ohio Revised Code.”