When the City of Austin approved the construction of a new JW Marriott in the city’s downtown area it included an agreement to waive nearly $3.8 million in fees. In exchange, the project would pay prevailing wages to all its workers. After complaints from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 520, the city is looking to review the project and its developer, White Lodging.
City officials told The Austin-Statesman that while they have no evidence that prevailing wages are being dodged, they have been concerned for nearly a year that they and White Lodging may have different interpretations of what is required. Deno Yiankes, White Lodging’s president and CEO of investments and development, claims the company has been completely compliant throughout the project.
“Our general contractor has honored our prevailing wage agreement...and fully anticipate honoring it through the remainder of the job.”
IBEW Local 520 has not yet filed a formal complaint with the city but their conversations with the local media have sparked enough interest to get an audit rolling. City spokesman Doug Matthews told The Austin-Statesman that the complaint helped spark the probe though other city officials gave different reasons for confusion:
According to a Friday memorandum, confusion might have been caused by the direction of a former high-level city staffer who, in advising White Lodging on the finer points of the city’s requirements, gave approvals that turned out to be “contrary to the (agreement) passed by the (City) Council.”
Some Austin residents felt that waiving $3.8 million in fees was foolish, a strange move to turn away money. Austin’s economic development office, however, determined that the deal was a net plus to Austin’s economy because the increased wages would boost the community and spur consumer spending.