Investigators are looking into claims that a subcontractor on a state building project near Aristes paid its employees below prevailing wage, several sources confirmed.

The offices of state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) and state Sen. John Gordner (R-27) each confirmed a state Labor and Industry investigation into the claims, as did a union employee who is working at the site of the developing district forest office along Route 42 in Columbia County.

A Labor and Industry spokesperson twice refused comment on the matter, and said department policy does not allow for confirmation or denial of the existence of an open investigation.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is having a 10,000-square-foot office and 5,000-

square-foot garage constructed on the Roaring Creek Tract of Weiser State Forest, between the Roaring Creek trail head and Aristes in Conyngham Township.

Approximately 100 people, including boilermakers, electricians, ironworkers, operators and painters, are working for multiple subcontractors.

A small group of drywall workers is what raised suspicion among two acquaintances of Stephen Motyka, 34, of Kulpmont.

Motyka, a carpenter who belongs to Carpenters Local 645, Scranton, has not worked at the Aristes site, but the two acquaintances had. They told him there were "a lot of out-of-state license plates" at the site, and allegedly several "non-English speaking" drywall contractors.

Motyka was careful to say he wasn't accusing them of being illegal aliens. However, when asked what they were making, he says one of the workers in question told his acquaintance that it was about $130 a day.

That's far less than prevailing wage.

Online state records show wage determinations for each position at state construction jobs. Drywall contractors are slated to earn an average of $23.92 hourly ($191 for an eight-hour day), with fringe benefits at $13.45 hourly, at the DCNR project site. The salary and benefits combined would be nearly $300 a day for an eight-hour work day.

Neither of the two contractors who made the allegations to Motyka wanted to file complaints. He says they had work at a time when many others don't, and are afraid of ruffling feathers.

One union contractor working at the site spoke with The News-Item, confirming Motyka's story.

"I'm working but a lot of my friends aren't working," said Motyka, who's a superintendent at a project in Lehigh County for a private firm. "I'm just calling (the state) because it is the law. What's right is right."

He says when he called Labor and Industry in December, they were reluctant to investigate. Calls to the offices of Masser and Gordner were a bit more helpful, he said.

Two weeks after speaking with the elected officials' representatives, he says he heard back from a Labor and Industry investigator, who pledged to follow through on the complaint.

Last month, he says an investigator visited the job site and spoke with the drywall contractors. Whatever wage they confessed to making was below prevailing wage, he says. A union contractor working on site said the same to The News-Item, as did a second union contractor not working at the site but who has followed the developments himself.

Motyka says he's pleased the allegation is being investigated but is upset with what he viewed as reluctance to act on the part of state investigators.

Lobar Construction Services, Dillsburg, is general contractor for the project. The drywall work was subcontracted to Paramount Contracting, Lancaster, which in turn subcontracted the work to A&M Drywall and Framing, according to DCNR.

A message left for a project manager at Paramount was not returned. A Lobar employee referred The News-Item to a project manager who was unavailable. A telephone number listed for a York firm named A&M Drywall and Framing was out of service.