Las Vegas Sun

March 18, 2019

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Questions about wages delay Strip bollard project

Bollards Along the Stip

Wade Vandervort

Construction workers install steel bollards along the Strip sidewalk in front of Paris Las Vegas on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

Work to protect pedestrians on Las Vegas Strip sidewalks with steel barriers has been delayed because of an ongoing wage dispute.

Clark County has already spent about $5 million on the purchase and installation of 800 steel posts, called bollards, along Las Vegas Boulevard between Tropicana Avenue and Spring Mountain Road. Installation began in October and was completed in late December.

Commissioners today were scheduled to approve another $2.5 million for Muller Construction to install up to 500 additional bollards along that same stretch. But they opted to delay voting until their next meeting on Feb. 6 after county staff offered conflicting statements about an ongoing dispute regarding the pay rates of workers installing the barriers.

This is the second time the additional money has been delayed.

The first time was at the commission’s Jan. 2 meeting, when the wage issue was first raised by Lou DeSalvio, director of the Nevada Foundation for Fair Contracting.

In a report, DeSalvio alleges workers were misclassified and underpaid by Muller Construction. Nevada has prevailing wage laws that set minimum pay rates for workers in different classifications, such as laborers, ironworkers, steelworkers and cement masons.

The report says workers on the bollard project said they were being paid the prevailing wage for a lower-paying labor class.

Two formal complaints with the Labor Commission have been filed.

“Misclassification is the best way to undercut workers,” said Frank Hawk of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, one of several labor groups that urged the commission to delay the vote. “We have seen it time and time again.”

A representative from Muller told commissioners there is no dispute with its employees and that the company had paid them more than the minimum rate.

Muller also alleges DeSalvio presented himself as county employee and entered its work site under false pretenses, something DeSalvio flatly denies.

December payroll data is due to the county this week. Commissioners decided to delay the vote on the contract extension to allow county staff to process and investigate the data.

Commissioner Jim Gibson stressed the importance of compliance with prevailing wage laws and urged a thorough look that goes “beyond the paperwork.”

“Unless there is complete and total compliance to doing it right ... there is something missing,” he said. “Everything needs to be reported on with full clarity. Why are there discrepancies? We need to get this behind us. We need a final report.”

Commissioner Larry Brown said he would like to see the county take a clear, unified stance on the issue of prevailing wages and what it expects of its contractors. Not doing so opens the county to additional delays and issues.

“It’s stopping a project that is critically important,” he said.

The bollards are designed to protect pedestrians from vehicles. They are rated to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 50 mph.

The 800 bollards already installed and the 500 in limbo are the first phase of the project. County officials plan to install another 7,500 bollards this year.

Money for the project comes from a 1 percent hotel room tax.