Santa Monica City Council members last Tuesday approved as part of their consent calendar a contract modification with a firm to provide prevailing wage monitoring and compliance in affordable housing projects currently being developed in Santa Monica.
California based Comprehensive Housing Services (CHS) will “provide federal and state prevailing wage monitoring” as well as ensure compliance of City-funded affordable housing developments.
Based upon the March 12 council vote, CHS will receive an additional $88,000 to continue providing its services its services through the end of the contract term in June 2014. A five-year agreement originally approved in 2009, the contract is now worth $513,000; it was previously valued at $425,000.
“To ensure City compliance with local, state and federal prevailing wage regulations, the City relies on experts to monitor wages paid to construction workers on affordable housing development,” City staff stated. “CHS is currently providing these services for several affordable housing developments in various stages of construction and which involve multi-year construction cycles.”
The $88,000 in increased fees would cover prevailing wage monitoring for the next two years and cover the time it would take City Hall to oversee completion of most of the affordable housing developments currently underway,” City staff stated.
“An increase of the existing contract with CHS is recommended to ensure continuity in the monitoring of current affordable housing developments.
According to City staff, CHS has already been monitoring prevailing wages for 10 affordable housing developments, or 459 apartments, in “various stages of construction.”
“These developments are funded with various local, state and federal monies that require the payment of prevailing wages and, to the greatest extent feasible, the provision of opportunities for job training and employment to lower-income and minority residents,” City staff stated. “By June 2014, all but one of the affordable housing developments currently under construction should be completed and prevailing wage monitoring of the remaining development can be largely handled by staff in an effort to reduce operational expenditures.”
City Hall could pay fines should it be in non-compliance with prevailing wage monitoring. Just the same, City Hall would potentially have to “make payments to construction workers to rectify underpayments, and withdrawal of project funding.”
Contracting with outside firms to monitor prevailing wages is common practice for the City.
CHS was one of two top bidders when City Hall solicited proposals in 2008 for firms providing prevailing wage monitoring services. A contract was awarded to CHS in 2008 and again in 2011.
According to State of California’s Dept. of Industrial Relations, prevailing wage rates are different than market wage rates.
“California’s prevailing wage laws ensure that the ability to get a public works contract is not based on paying lower wage rates than a competitor,” the Dept. of Industrial Relations website explains. “All bidders are required to use the same wage rates when bidding on a public works project. California law requires that not less than the general prevailing rate of per diem wages be paid to all workers employed on a public works project.”
In February, the Dept. of Industrial Relations director made a prevailing wage determination for Southern California workers. The prevailing wage for fence builder, for example, was $44.37 per hour for normal hours and as much as $76.70 per hour if working on a Sunday. For a drywaller, the prevailing wage rate would be $50.70 per hour.
The Dept. of Industrial Relations regularly publishes current prevailing wage rates on its website.