September 11, 2010
Companies finishing road work delayed by late budget
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
A paving crew from Suit-Kote lays asphalt Wednesday at the entrance to the Finger Lakes East Business Park on Route 13 in South Cortland. The Cortlandville company had to postpone work on two large state projects this year.
CORTLANDVILLE — Suit-Kote Corp. laid off workers and paid employees from reserves while it waited on the state. Economy Paving borrowed money and cut some workers’ hours during this year’s budget impasse.
Each company had to adjust during a construction season in which Economy Paving at one point expected to complete only about half of its approximately 20 state-funded projects.
The state held up payments until June on projects the companies had hoped to be paid for in April.
Suit-Kote crews have worked fast to complete two state projects that had been scheduled to begin April 12, said company spokesman Brian Renna.
Crews changed methods for laying asphalt and worked longer hours on the projects, a reconstruction of Route 90 and a guardrail project in Cortland, Onondaga and Cayuga counties, Renna said. The two projects total $6 million.
The state budget was completed Aug. 3, well past the constitutionally mandated budget deadline of April 1.
Without a state budget, the state approved weekly 2009-10 budget extenders, which in effect authorized some 2010-11 spending. Gov. David Paterson refused to include spending for road work for several weeks, before proposing it in a June bill that was approved.
“We hope now, after this year, the legislators realize the impact these budget fights have had on hardworking families, such as Suit-Kote employees,” Renna said.
In June, Suit-Kote brought back 60 of 150 workers laid off in March as the budget approval seemed certain to be later than the April 1 deadline, Renna said. Another 45 workers have been hired back since.
The Route 90 project was finished Aug. 20 after starting May 10, Renna said. The guardrail project began May 17 and should be done in October.
The 55 workers on the two jobs had been paid with the company’s reserve funds while it waited on the state.
Suit-Kote plans to have a full work force of about 700 employees for next year’s construction season, said Renna, which begins in April.
This year Suit-Kote also had 100 small projects that were partially funded by the state.
Economy Paving, which specializes in building and repairing bridges, now expects to complete all of its state projects this season, said company President Joe Compagni.
Economy Paving is repairing or rebuilding 13 bridges. Crews are repairing or replacing concrete decks, repairing support structures and painting beams. The work costs $8 million, and the state has already paid $7 million to the company, Compagni said.
Economy Paving did not lay off workers but had to cut hours, and sometimes suppliers accepted late payments as a result of the budget delay, Compagni said.
He said he is relieved the budget finally passed, but is critical of legislators.
The late budget forced Economy Paving to borrow more money than usual for materials and supplies. Compagni declined to give a figure.
Compagni said the troubles that resulted from this year’s late state budget might prompt his company to be more conservative with spending and buy less equipment to complete its projects.
“We lost confidence in the state government process” because of the budget impasse, Compagni said.
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