Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 | 6 p.m.
A company that has a contract for steel work on the giant SkyVue observation wheel on the Strip is behind $78,000 in wages due state prison inmates for welding work on past jobs.
In addition Alpine Steel owes the state prison system $401,000 for use of its other resources.
Brian Connett, deputy director for the state Department of Corrections, told a legislative committee Friday that Alpine President Randy Bulloch has promised to pay $40,000 to the prisoners by the end of next week and be caught up in full by the end of October for the salary deficit.
Bulloch previously told the Legislative Committee on Industrial Programs that he has the contract for fabrication work of the planned 500-foot Ferris wheel as well as the retail space below the wheel which is east of Mandalay Bay.
Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, said the state needs a guarantee that the wages of these inmates will be paid. And committee member Allen Puliz said Alpine should be required to put up a bond to make sure the state gets its money.
Corrections Director Greg Cox assured the committee that appropriate steps would be taken if the $40,000 is not paid to inmates by the end of next week. And he said there was Alpine equipment inside of Southern Desert Correctional Center that would be held until the debt owed the state is paid.
Bulloch was not at the meeting but Connett said Alpine has suffered like other businesses during the recession. The company did $3.5 million in business in 2010 and then $2.8 million in 2011. He said Bulloch expects to do $4 million this year and $12 million next year.
Connect said Bulloch plans to pay the $401,000 in full to Silver State Industries, the name of the prison inmate work program. But committee members stressed they wanted to see a guarantee or bond to protect the state.
Bulloch anticipates employing more than 50 inmates for the work on the observation wheel and retail shops. Work is expected to start in mid to late fall.
Bulloch told the committee in March that the North Fifth Street Bridge was welded by inmates and passed inspection. These skilled inmates are ready to work on the wheel.
Connett told the committee that the construction business in Las Vegas is starting to pick up and Alpine also has jobs on a car dealership and a hospital.
The committee was told that 472 inmates were currently employed in the prison industries programs. To recover room and board costs, the prison takes 24 percent of the gross wage of an inmate, five percent goes to a fund to compensate victims of crime and five percent is used for expanded of new prison industry programs.