Posted by on November 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM
Two states down, four to go?
The bad news about Barr, Inc. is spreading like wildfire. Earlier this year they were the subject of a Fox 25 Boston piece about contractors who do a poor job, but negotiate their way into good grades in the review process. A state investigation that included review of five failing grades on public projects led to the company being debarred from bidding public work in Massachusetts.
Now Barr, Inc. is showing the Connecticut Department of Transportation the problems they can bring to an awarding authority.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation had full knowledge of the fact that Barr, Inc was debarred in Massachusetts. In fact, the company is also under investigation in Connecticut for violating prevailing wage laws on another public project. Still, the DOT moved forward with awarding Barr, Inc. a $1 million project to rebuild a covered walking bridge over the Salmon River. As a result of activity on that project, Barr, Inc. has now been fined for failure to pay proper wages to workers. The events have led to very public and harsh criticism of the Department of Transportation for hiring Barr, Inc. despite their previous problems. Both the Hartford Courant and Connecticut's News Channel 8 featured the story.
"Frankly, this is the height of incompetence," said state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, who arranged a news conference Monday to discuss the contract. "Didn't we learn from the problems we had with the drains on I-84? We've had enough shoddy work in this state."
State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, co-chairman of the legislature's transportation committee, said that although it was "probably technically permissible" to award Barr the contract, "it was, at best, a very risky decision." DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat, said "the transportation committee is going to look hard at this particular job and ask the department for frequent performance updates."
DeFronzo and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that Barr was a "poster child" for the need to give the commissioners of transportation, labor and administrative services the clear authority to remove or suspend a contractor from the pre-qualification list — from which state vendors are drawn — when one of them is disqualified in another state.
Please note that Barr, Inc. is a Connecticut-based firm unrelated to union contractor Barr and Barr.