I-Team 10 investigation: Labor group joins Medley Centre debate

Posted at: 01/10/2014 4:53 PM
Updated at: 01/10/2014 5:20 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

A local labor group is calling out a local school district and it's all about local jobs. That labor group reached out to the East Irondequoit School District about the stalled Medley Centre project.

I-Team 10 has obtained a letter from the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation to the District saying it wants to help move the project forward. The two-page letter says it was sent in the spirit of best intentions and that the success of the Medley Centre project will mean thousands of local jobs. So the local chapter of the AFL-CIO is offering its assistance and has made some recommendations to the East Irondequoit School District and is calling on the District to agree to a third-party judge to break the stalemate.

The developer and the District are in a battle over a tax agreement. For years, mall owner Scott Congel has been promising to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to re-develop the site but the District says he has failed to meet investment milestones and therefore owes about $4-million in supplemental payments.

Congel has been trying to re-work the agreement and push out those milestone dates. The District says it won't entertain any changes until it gets paid.

In his letter to the District, Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation President Jim Bertolone expressed concern about a lack of transparency and recommended the District provide information about what it’s paying attorneys. The letter suggests that the attorneys might be creating obstacles and racking up huge fees. It also called for a judge to determine what Congel owes the District.

We spoke with Bertolone by phone today. He says he understands the District is doing what it believes is right to protect taxpayers but he also believe there is too much at stake to stand on the sidelines. “I don't know who's right and I'm not an attorney, but I'm just trying to find a way. This could be up to 3,000 construction jobs, which tend to be middle class jobs, for a few years and the development of the $1.5-billion project will also mean a lot of other good jobs."   

We did speak with East Irondequoit Superintendent John Abbott for his reaction. He wasn’t available for an-camera interview but by phone he acknowledged that he has had a few discussions with Bertolone recently and is more than happy to have the Union’s input but he reiterated that they are looking out for their taxpayers and there has to be some certainty that they’re going to get paid.