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Babylon Town to change code on apprenticeship requirement, settle suit

Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst is shown on

Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst is shown on July 11, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Babylon Town is poised to settle a federal lawsuit over their requirement that companies doing work on large buildings have an apprenticeship program.

In September, Opal Construction Corp, of Bay Shore filed a federal lawsuit against the town over work on a commercial project on Route 110 in East Farmingdale headed by Blumenfeld Development Group in Syosset. According to the lawsuit, Opal won a nearly $3.7 million paving and construction contract for the project. However, the company, which was attempting to obtain a demolition permit from the town for the project, was issued a stop-work order on Sept. 5, 2017, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.

The town stated Opal was in violation of its code, passed in 2012, which stipulates that before the issuance of a building permit for commercial buildings of 100,000 square feet or more, companies must show that “any general contractor, contractor or subcontractor for such project participates in an approved apprenticeship training program.”

The lawsuit says Opal lost out on more than $3 million in business when the project had to go to another company. The lawsuit further states that Opal, in wanting to be assured it could work on other projects in the town, spent $10,000 to become affiliated with an apprenticeship program with $7,000 annual fees.

The lawsuit states the town “overreached its authority” and the code violates state labor law, which maintains that mandatory apprentice programs must be by governmental entities which are a “direct or indirect party” to a construction contract.

In anticipation of the settlement, the town has scheduled a public hearing next week  on changes to that section of code that would apply apprenticeship requirements only to public projects.

Apprenticeships would be needed for "public works projects in excess of $250,000 and/or 100,000  square feet, whichever is less.” A public works project is defined as a “contract or bid for the erection, construction, alteration, improvement, or repair of any public facility or immovable property owned by the Town of Babylon or a public benefit corporation or a commission appointed pursuant to law by the Town of Babylon.”

Town Attorney Joe Wilson declined to comment because the settlement is pending. The town has used the firm of Harris Beach PLLC of Uniondale for the lawsuit and have paid them $16,000 so far, Bonner said. Opal attorney Hayden Pace of Ithaca did not respond to a request for comment.

Many municipalities on Long Island have similar apprenticeship requirements and trade groups for builders and developers have urged the relaxation of such rules, saying they hurt smaller companies   that can’t afford apprenticeship programs.

Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, which along with two other trade groups helped fund the lawsuit, said in a statement that he hopes other municipalities get rid of such requirements, calling them "not only illegal and a textbook example of a municipality exceeding its authority, but one that harms the very economic fabric of the region." 

The public hearing is on Feb. 27 at 3:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 200 E. Sunrise Hwy., Lindenhurst.

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