We the People . . . as individuals and as taxpayers deserve the rest of the story. On March 21, 2012 the question was raised whether the Wicks Law is impeding a new Hamlin Library. Taxpayers read the story . . . their eyes and minds fed only a piece of the whole. Unfortunately, the whole looks a lot different than the piece that was offered.
The Wicks Law was enacted in 1912 to reduce corruption and expose the construction procurement process to public scrutiny. The law requires that most state agencies and local governments use multiple bids on construction projects above a specified dollar amount. The electrical, plumbing and HVAC contractors submit separate bids for their own portion of the work to be performed. This is in contrast to a single bid, where the general contractor is able to lump together all of the work with no clear separation of the bids.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the rest of the story in an attempt to give the taxpayers the real picture.
The issue is whether single prime bidding or multiple prime bidding is more cost effective for the tax payers in New York State. Not surprisingly, those who oppose the Wicks Law continue to base their arguments upon outdated and discounted studies. For example, the State conducted a study in 1987 that concluded multiple prime jobs were more costly than single prime jobs. However, you the taxpayer were never told that the results do not actually reflect that true cost differential. This is because when the study was conducted, vital differences in the projects studied were not taken into account.
What about the studies that repeatedly get overlooked by those who oppose the Wicks Law? Numerous studies when taken together show a clear picture of the impact and importance of the Wick’s Law in reducing costs. This alone should cause our taxpayers to dive a little deeper…learn a little more…question a bit more frequently. Let’s take a moment. You will come to see the issue in a whole new light.
The New Jersey Studies of the 1960’s and 1970’s concluded that Multiple Prime Contracts produced lower bids in 85 out of 90 projects and that single prime jobs had almost 9 percent higher bid costs than multiple prime projects. In 1993, the Study of New York Wicks Law Prepared for the Electrical Contracting Foundation once again showed that single bid jobs have a higher bid cost and a higher final cost than multiple bid projects. In 1995, the National Study Prepared for The Electrical Contracting Foundation and The Mechanical Contracting Foundation found that multiple prime contracting jobs are over 5 percent less expensive than single prime jobs and that the differences were due in large part to lower bid costs. In 1999, the New Jersey Study Prepared by The Carnoustie Group concluded that single prime contracts have a higher cost overrun and that multiple prime bids are lower than single prime bids. In 2006, the research study Single vs. Multiple Prime Contracting Prepared for ELECTRI International showed that single prime contracts have a 5 percent higher average ratio of final cost to estimated cost than multiple prime contracts and that the difference is due in large part to multiple primes having lower bid costs.
As you can clearly see, having multiple bids does not increase the cost as some would like you to believe. In fact, multiple bids result in a decrease to cost. It just makes common sense . . . if you were to build or fund a project; do you really think that the costs would be lower when you can’t see what the costs really are? Why don’t those who seek to repeal the Wicks Law want you, the taxpayer, to see the bidding process?