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Town Board approves apprentice requirement

Despite some objection from small businesses, the Riverhead Town Board unanimously approved a new procurement policy Tuesday that requires contractors and subcontractors working on municipal projects for Riverhead Town to participate in a Class A qualified apprenticeship.

The proposal, if approved, would apply to projects in excess of $250,000 and/or 100,000 square feet.

Members of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters have been urging the town to adopt the policy since 2007. 

Supporters say the program will allow people who may not be able to go to college to learn a trade and earn a good salary. 

But the Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade association representing non-union construction workers, said in a press release Tuesday that the town is “considering passing a discriminatory apprenticeship mandate on all public works projects over $250,000. If passed, this measure would effectively exclude every non-union contractor that has done public work for the Town of Riverhead in the past, from performing such work in the future.”

“We understand the importance of the local contractors and we want to monitor them to make sure they are not squeezed out of some of this work as well,” said Matthew Aracich, president of the Building Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk.

Bob Panchak of Riverhead said he favored the apprentice requirement, but added, “As a small business operator, it becomes a little difficult to maintain. It’s odd that the board wants to put these regulations on us, when they don’t want to do it on themselves.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she’d had meetings and phone conversations with the unions and the small business owners in the past few days. She said they all stressed that they will work together to make sure the program “will be in the best interests of the town, its residents, business owners both large and small, and that the people are trained and have good, high-paying jobs.”