Contracts FAQ 19

Are combined contracts to renovate, paint and maintain municipally-owned water towers subject to the prevailing wage law? 

Yes. Under Wisconsin's prevailing wage law, before a local government makes a contract for the erection, construction, remodeling, repairing or demolition of any project of public works, whether it's by direct negotiation or by solicitation of bids, the local government must apply to the State Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to determine the prevailing wage rate for each trade or occupation required in the work contemplated. Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0903(3)(am). However, the prevailing wage law does not apply to projects for which the estimated project cost does not exceed the threshold levels determined by state law, which are:

  • $48,000 for single trade projects.
  • $100,000 for all multiple-trade projects conducted by cities and villages over 2,500 in population.
  • $234,000 for multiple-trade projects that will be let to a
  • private contractor conducted by any town, and any city or village with a population less than 2,500.

Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0903(5)(a).

The League has opined in past opinions (Contracts 210 and 332) that the sand blasting and recoating of a water tower's interior does not constitute "public construction" within the context of the competitive bid laws applicable to public construction exceeding $25,000 (Wis. Stat. secs. 61.54 and 62.15), but those opinions do not address the prevailing wage law. The DWD has advised the League that combined contracts for renovation, painting and maintenance work that exceed the minimum project threshold costs are covered by Wisconsin's prevailing wage laws and that a municipality must obtain a prevailing wage rate determination from the DWD and list the rates in the project specifications. The hired contractor will be expected to pay its workers the prevailing wage rates on all painting and renovation performed on the project.