G.M. Crisalli & Associates, Inc.: Celebrating 35 Years of Excellence in Construction Contracting

By Elizabeth Landry

When Gary Crisalli first began his own general contracting business in Syracuse in 1989, he was working out of a two-bedroom apartment in Solvay. After the first year and for the next seven years, he and his team operated the business out of a residential home they had renovated to meet their business needs before finally settling into their long-term and current location on Hiawatha Boulevard West. From humble beginnings, Crisalli took on projects in almost every industry, growing the business’s portfolio and demonstrating its commitment to excellence while meeting the needs of a diverse array of clients.

Today, G.M. Crisalli & Associates, Inc. (GMCA) is one of the top general contractors in Central NY, having completed approximately 1,700 projects over the course of the business. With a team of about forty people, the organization works on projects across the entire Northeastern United States, from Wisconsin to Maine to Maryland.

As the company celebrates its 35-year anniversary this year, this important milestone serves as a time to reflect on the growth and accomplishments over the years and to look ahead to the many projects still to come. Between Crisalli, President and Owner, and Rocco Paone, Associate, who joined the company in 1991, the team at GMCA has over one hundred combined years of experience in construction contracting and has achieved much success by focusing on meeting the needs of clients for every project, every time.

Diverse Clients and Industries

Working as a mason when he was just sixteen, and through his college years, Crisalli worked with a large engineering firm, an architectural firm and a construction contracting company before venturing out on his own. Obtaining such valuable field and office experience in his teens and early twenties allowed GMCA to take on any job in many different industries from the first day of business.

“I’ve been telling people since the day we went into business that we build everything except roads and bridges,” said Crisalli. “Due to a past client that Rocco had worked with, GMCA obtained a contract on a very large construction site in our first year. The Solvay cogeneration power plant in Solvay. We were contracted to do a small job at first. The contract exponentially grew as we performed our base contract.  We were asked to work in many areas of the plant. We ended up being there for three years doing anything they wanted us to do, from asbestos abatement to assisting with the walk-down and commissioning of the boilers. That project was a blessing to our company, but it was also a project we knew we could perform well. From day one we did anything that was requested of our company by our client.  The company philosophy is to acquire the knowledge, expertise, and experience to meet any of our client’s construction needs. That philosophy got us in the door and has retained our relationships in many different industries.”

The team at GMCA has completed projects for clients in both the public and private sectors, in industries including education, military, commercial, industrial, medical, retail and grocery, as well as building restaurants and places of worship. Having completed numerous original-build and renovation projects for such a diverse range of clients, Crisalli has a long list of favorite jobs the team has worked on over the years, starting with brick removal and replacement for Onondaga County at the Civic Center in 1991. That same year, the team built the first neuro angiogram room at Upstate Medical Center, which led to numerous build and renovation projects for the health center in the following decades. In 1996, GMCA built the flagship Franklin Covey store in New York City across from the Rockefeller Center. In the early-to-mid 2000s, the company assisted with the building and construction management of the Clarence Jordan Vision Center for Mercy Works in Syracuse, the Island Health & Fitness Center in Ithaca, the Abundant Life Discipleship Training Center and the FedEx distribution center, both in East Syracuse, various five-story college housing projects, and Athletic clubs.  One of the most unique projects GMCA has completed is building the penguin exhibit at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

Perhaps the most stand-out project in Crisalli’s list of favorites is the Blodgett Dream Center, a sprawling, one-of-a-kind library located within one of the most impoverished schools in the Syracuse City School District. “Many different artisans worked on this project,” Crisalli explained. “It has a spaceship with twenty-nine computers, a Renaissance-themed area with beautiful arches, a prehistoric-themed space with dinosaurs, a Roman Amphitheater where James Earl Jones read to the Blodgett children on the opening day of the library, and a beautiful Egyptian-themed tiled wall entrance and greeting area. 

Adapting to Change

To continue meeting the diverse range of client needs over the years, the GMCA team has been able to adapt to many different settings and requirements. For Paone, working with such a wide range of clients has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the business.

“Probably what’s been most exciting for me is meeting so many good customers and diverse clients over the years,” said Paone. “We’ve worked with so many different types of clients and we always strive to adapt to their individual wants and needs. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in medical institutions and hospitals, which have many layers of requirements, as compared to a client who’s planning a building that’s coming out of the ground. Having the ability to adapt to our clients’ needs and re-educating ourselves for every different project has been so important.”

Alongside diverse client needs, GMCA has been successful in adapting to changes within the industries themselves, related to software, technology, communications and more. Crisalli explained how general societal changes have a large impact on contracting, procurement, and managing projects across industries.

“The construction industry has changed a lot over the years,” Crisalli explained. “Everything moves faster now because of the advancements in communications. Society has changed overall as far as how we communicate with each other from purchasing, procurement of subcontractors, materials, regulations, building systems, construction equipment and processes, just about every aspect of building for our clients.   It has been interesting keeping up with all the changes. The different changes over the years have, in turn, altered the way we approach building in many different ways and areas of the industry.  It’s all a little different than when we started out.  The building process must adapt to our client’s needs. It’s more important to plan and schedule all these items immediately following contract procurement.  Our team obtains all the knowledge necessary to plan out the entire building: pre-construction, construction, and turnover phases in the preconstruction phase of the project, prior to putting a shovel in the ground. This practice has led us in making the construction process efficient and successful.”

“The company’s greatest single asset are the people who meet, adapt, and succeed in navigating the changes to our industry. We are very successful because of our staff of smart, knowledgeable, service-oriented people.” Crisalli continued.

Of course, to keep up with all the moving parts within the contracting space as well as the diverse needs of clients, GMCA’s team needs to remain highly knowledgeable and adaptable.  This makes all the difference with clients and ongoing success. Due to a general shortage of skilled trades, this need can sometimes be challenging, but according to Crisalli, GMCA has been successful in this area because of its focus on ongoing training and education, as well as a unique company culture that combats the stress that often comes along with working in construction.

“Over the years, the training processes that we use have changed completely. Now, we train our team on software as well as procedure, making sure everyone has the skills they need to successfully execute jobs. Not only do we train our employees on our own software programs, but we also train them on our clients’ various software programs to help us assimilate into different markets. Although we make sure the team has the knowledge and training to succeed on every site, the construction industry culture can sometimes be stressful. Many of our employees have been with us for over 10 years, and they appreciate that we try to alleviate stress through working as a team and humor. We have a small company atmosphere that works. Someone is always willing to help when another person’s workload suddenly increases.   I really think that helps,” said Crisalli.

Charitable Giving in the Community

Another important aspect of the company culture at GMCA is a great sense of pride in supporting the causes of several organizations and charities throughout many communities. The company facilitated a golf tournament to support Mercy Works’ at The Clarence Jordan Vision Center last year, raising approximately $50,000. Crisalli is a past president of the Baldwin Fund, and GMCA continues to support this charity.  The company has also supported the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) every year, as well as local organizations such as In My Father’s Kitchen and Francis House.

One charitable organization that’s especially meaningful to Crisalli is Marvelous Ways International in Lakeland, Florida. GMCA supports a golf tournament for this organization each year, which was founded by a couple from Central New York, Mark and Christin Haywood. Marvelous Ways International uses different developmental programs, teams of trained individuals and innovative technology to help monitor and improve outcomes for impoverished youth in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras. “This organization helps kids who don’t have many great options in life to succeed. They give these children and teens a hope for the future by monitoring and guiding them through these youthful years and assisting each individual allowing them to choose a path for a successful life. It’s working out well and really making a difference in the life story of many who had few options for success. I am proud we can volunteer our time and resources to help make a positive difference in the lives of others,” said Crisalli.

Looking to the Future

Having worked with an impressive list of diverse clients for 35 years and always leaning into re-evaluation of the business, learning and constructive change along the way, GMCA is moving into the future with a goal of continued progress, growth, and adaptability.

“We always try to take a snapshot of what our economy is doing – what’s hot and what’s not,” said Paone. “We’ll continue to adapt our business corresponding with changes in the economy. Everyone knows the buzzword in Syracuse – Micron – and we’re certainly keeping our eye on that industry so we can adapt our business to service that industry successfully.”

Although change is always certain, especially in the construction contracting marketplace, one thing that will continue to remain constant for GMCA is its centralized mission of focusing on client needs above all else.

“Having been in business for 35 years is a real blessing. During that time, we’ve instilled in our team a sense of slow but steady growth, and conveyed the importance of covering our bases so we can ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients,” said Crisalli. “In our industry, it really comes down to this: if you please your clients, you’ll always succeed.”

CECL Explained: What Construction Companies Need to Know

Kaitlyn H. Axenfeld, CPA/CFF, CFE

The CECL model’s main change from current accounting rules is a requirement to incorporate forward-looking information while estimating credit losses. Construction companies typically have several types of financial assets that are subject to the ASU, including contract receivables, contract retainage and contract assets. You will now be required to forecast the total expected credit losses of these types of financial assets over the entirety of the asset’s life rather than when the loss meets the probable threshold or when incurred. This forecast is based on a wider scope of data that includes past events, current conditions, and reasonable and supportable estimates for the future. As a result, companies will have to invest more time in reviewing past write-offs, past bad debts, creditworthiness, etc., to calculate a reasonable and fair estimate for future bad debts.

A common approach to estimating future bad debts is to review aging categories for receivables. These aging categories can then be assigned reserve percentages based on delinquency, prior bad debts, knowledge of who owes what, etc. Those values are then combined to determine an entity’s allowance or reserve for bad debts.

When estimating future bad debts for financial assets subject to ASC 326, management should also evaluate and consider consumer credit risk scores, credit ratings, credit risk grades, debt-to-value ratios, collateral, collection experience, or other internal metrics.

The new standard requires enhanced disclosures to provide transparency on credit risk management, methodology, and the impact on financial statements. This enables financial statement users to assess the credit quality of financial assets and understand changes in expected credit losses over time.  

For each class of financial assets, a reporting entity should describe the credit quality indicator that it is using and then disclose the amortized cost basis of the asset, grouped by indicator.

Footnotes on an ongoing basis are required to include:

  • A description of how expected loss estimates are developed.
  • The entity’s accounting policies and methodology to estimate the allowance for credit losses.
  • Factors that influenced management’s current estimate and relevant risk characteristics.
  • Changes in the factors influencing management’s current estimate of expected credit losses and the reasons for those changes.
  • Changes to the entity’s accounting policies and reasons for significant changes in the amount of write-offs, if applicable.

CECL may not have a significant impact on a company’s allowance for credit loss, but it will require management to make new judgments and calculations to comply with the new standard. Entities should also consider updating their policies and procedures to ensure the necessary data is accurately captured. Once implemented, CECL will require ongoing monitoring to ensure that the methods and assumptions used for the initial credit loss calculations continue to reflect current conditions and variables. Forecasting should be a continuous process, and those factors will continue to evolve. 

It is also important to consider the impact of CECL when entering into new transactions or relationships, as well as when economic conditions change. CECL could negatively impact liquidity measures and ratios, which could affect lending, bonding, and other insurance.


Kaitlyn H. Axenfeld, CPA/CFF, CFE, is an audit partner at Dannible & McKee, LLP, a public accounting firm with offices in Syracuse, Auburn, Binghamton and Schenectady, NY, and Tampa, FL. The firm has specialized in providing tax, audit, accounting, and advisory services since its inception in 1978. For more information on this topic, you may contact Kaitlyn at (315) 472-9127 or visit online at www.dmcpas.com.

Membership has its Benefits – SBE and Workers’ Compensation Insurance Safety Group #469

Steven Bell, Vice President, Underwriting & Sales

To compete in the ever-changing and competitive landscape of the construction ndustry requires a low-cost, reliable, and comprehensive workers’ compensation insurance solution. In keeping with SBE’s mission of providing members with valuable programs and services, Lovell worked with employers in the construction industry in 1960 to create a workers’ compensation insurance safety group program. With over 64 years of history, this fully insured program known as Safety Group #469 – The NYS Construction Industry, operates on a non-profit basis, providing low upfront costs while delivering financial returns through dividends. Since its inception, Safety Group #469, has returned over $620 million in cash dividends to membership.   

What is a Workers’ Compensation Safety Group?

Safety Groups were established in New York State to serve the business community.  Safety groups are a collection of businesses who are in the same trade or industry who group together to reduce their workers’ compensation costs.  This grouping enables the members of a safety group to spread the risk of loss from the individual policyholder to all members of the group. These fully insured, not-for-profit programs combine members’ annual workers’ compensation premiums and then deduct the costs of claims and administrative charges.   Any money left over after accounting for these expenses is available for payment of a dividend.  To reduce the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, safety group managers encourage and assist members in instituting measures to prevent accidents and make the workplace as safe as possible.

Who is eligible for Workers’ Compensation Safety Group #469?

All SBE members with primary business operations in New York State are potentially eligible for Safety Group #469.  In business, occasional losses are inevitable. To ensure the success of the program, it is imperative that group members as a whole achieve good loss results.  Although eligibility extends to all members with primary operations in New York State, qualification is based on historical loss trends, underscoring the significance of a steadfast dedication to safety practices.

Recognizing the diverse footprint of businesses in the construction industry, the program can extend workers’ compensation insurance coverage to other states. This coverage enables members to manage their workers’ compensation insurance through a single invoice, simplifying the complexities associated with overseeing coverage in multiple states.

How does Membership in Safety Group #469 Benefit Construction Industry Employers?

Joining Safety Group #469 presents construction industry employers with a host of compelling advantages. Members enjoy an advance discount of up to 32.5% on their workers’ compensation insurance costs. In addition, any underwriting profits that the group earns are available to pay dividends.  The dividend for the most recent year was 27.5% of premium.    The combination of these dividends and discounts makes the program virtually unbeatable in the marketplace.  The benefits of membership are more than just financial; the safety group also provides access to industry leading safety, claim and underwriting expertise.  


How is Workers’ Compensation Safety Group #469 managed?

Group #469 is managed by Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC and by a committee of its members. Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC has been the market leader in managing workers’ compensation safety groups since 1936. As safety group manager for Group #469, Lovell provides comprehensive services to ensure the program’s success.    

Lovell’s team of experts provide loss prevention services to control losses, claims management services to mitigate the cost of claims, and underwriting services to ensure each member is priced at the lowest possible cost.    These services produce underwriting profits that get returned to members through upfront discounts and dividend payments. 


The strategic partnership between the SBE and Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC serves as a testament to SBE’s commitment to providing unparalleled benefits for members. The combination of the SBE’s and Lovell’s respective expertise ensures that members can navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation insurance and the construction industry with confidence.

To learn more about Safety Group #469, please contact Lovell directly at 1-800-556-8355.

Overview of OSHA Updates in 2024

As of January 2024, OSHA released an update to the maximum penalty costs to adjust for the cost-of-living increases over the past few years as well as changes to some of their National Emphasis Program’s. Below, we’ll outline some of those changes.

Penalty Cost Adjustments

Changes to maximum penalty costs to violations in serious, other than serious, and posting violations categories increased to $16,131 per violation. Failure to abate violations are $16,131 per day (generally limited to 30 days) beyond the abatement date. Willful or repeated violations are $161,323 for each violation. The higher gravity of the violation, the higher the cost of the fine will be. 

Types of OSHA Citations:

  • Serious: Violation of situations in which a hazardous condition could lead to death or serious harm of an employee.
  • Other Than Serious: Violation of situations in which a hazardous condition could lead to a direct and/immediate injury/illness but would not cause death or serious harm to the employee. This category also covers failures in recordkeeping, posting and electronic reporting.
  • Failure to Abate: Violation in which previously cited hazards were not brought into compliance since the previous inspection.
  • Willful: Employer intentionally disregards OSHA requirements or demonstrates indifference to health & safety of employees.
  • Repeated: Violation of a previously cited hazard. These violations were corrected at one point in time but found again in a new inspection.

It is important to note that in January of 2023, OSHA issued an expansion on their Instance-By-Instance (IBI) citations which outlines that if an employer has multiple violations, those citation fees will be individualized instead of grouped together as they might have been in the past. To give an example, if a company has multiple work sites with the same hazards identified, OSHA will cite each site with the violation, not the company as a whole. This can lead to very hefty fees for a company. 

What is an NEP?

A National Emphasis Program (NEP) is a temporary specific hazard awareness program which OSHA focuses their resources on. These hazards can be seen in the general industry or can be in targeted industries. For example, in 2021 OSHA issued an NEP on Covid-19 which covered general industry, and then was revised to focus on the healthcare industry as they were at the most risk for exposure. The NEPs will provide directives for employers to follow to ensure workers are protected from the focused hazard. OSHA inspections will typically focus on industries with the highest exposures to the hazard identified in the NEP.

What is an LEP?

In addition to a National Emphasis Program, Regional OSHA offices can develop Local Emphasis Programs (LEP) as well. For example, as of October 2023, Region II which covers NJ, NY, Puerto Rico, and VI, implemented an LEP focused on construction work sites with a purpose “to identify and reduce or eliminate hazards at local construction projects.” This LEP outlines that programmed (OSHA planned) inspections will be determined through collecting local information regarding construction projects and will identify which establishments (addresses) they will inspect. OSHA will also continue their Unprogrammed (unplanned) inspections after a trigger such as a fatality or catastrophe, complaints, or referrals.

What are the current NEPs and LEPs in place that could impact a construction site?

In addition to the LEP of Construction Work Sites:

  • NEP – Combustible Dust – started in January 2023 with no expiration date.
  • NEP – Falls – started in May 2023 with no expiration date.
  • NEP – Outdoor & Indoor Heat-Related Hazard – started in April 2022 with a planned expiration of April 2025.
  • NEP – Respirable Crystalline Silica – started in February 2020 with no expiration date.
  • LEP – Noise Hazards – started October 2019 with a planned expiration date of Sept 2024.

This names a few, but there can be more depending on the type of construction a business is doing. The OSHA.gov website lists out all the NEPs and LEPs and provides resources to comply with these emphasis programs.

An employer may not be able to avoid an OSHA inspection, but there are things that can be done to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Have a plan for the event which outlines who should meet with the inspector, how to determine what the inspector needs to see and what information needs to be provided immediately.  As always, OneGroup is available to help put a plan together and/or work on safety related programs to ensure employee health and safety is prioritized. For more information contact Brett Findlay at, BFindlay@OneGroup.com, Megan Coville at MCoville@OneGroup.com, or Paula DeStefano at PDeStefano@OneGroup.com.


Need to spell out first time

Employment Laws Taking Effect in the Spring of 2024 That Will Impact Your Business.

By: Sarah Smith

A. Social Media Protection Act

The Social Media Protection Act, which comes into effect on March 12, 2024, aims to establish regulations and safeguards to protect users’ privacy rights on social media platforms. It seeks to ensure that individuals have control over their personal information shared online.

Under this new act employers are prohibited from requesting, requiring, or coercing any current employee or applicant for employment to:

1) Disclose their usernames and passwords for accessing personal social media accounts.

2) Access their personal social media accounts in the presence of an employer.

3) Reproduce in any manner photographs, videos, or other information contained within a personal social media account.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee or applicant who refuses to disclose any prohibited information related to their personal social media accounts.  

The act does not prohibit employers from accessing an employee’s public social media information.  This act does not prohibit employers from requiring employees to disclose any username and password used by an employee to access employer provided social media accounts, as long as the employee was given notice of the employer’s right to request this information.

This act also allows employers to access an employee’s electronic communications on a device paid for by an employer, where the provision of, or payment for, such device is conditioned upon the employer’s right to access the device and the employee was notified and consented to such access.  Please note that the act prohibits employers from accessing any personal social media accounts contained on employer provided devices. 

Employers should review and update their social media policies to provide the required employee notices and ensure that their current policies do not require access to personal social media accounts.

B. Increased Wage Protections

Effective March 13, 2024, wage protections under Labor Law §§ 190 et. al. will be increased. The Department of Labor (“DOL”) previously rejected wage theft claims from executive, administrative, or professional employees making more than $900 a week. Employees above this earnings threshold were solely limited to pursuing a private action in civil court.

This change to the Labor Law seeks to correct this inflexible approach by increasing the weekly wage threshold from $900 to $1,300 per week. As such, executive, administrative, and professional employees making $1,300 or less per week will no longer be confined to commencing a lawsuit in civil court to recover owed wages and may bring an action with the DOL.

In addition to increasing the weekly wage threshold, the following provisions will also apply to executive, administrative, and professional employees making less than $1,300 per week:

1) Frequency of Pay (Labor Law §191): non-manual workers making less than $1,300.00 a week need to be paid no less than biweekly.

2) Cash payments of wages (Labor Law §192): Requires employers to obtain advance

employee consent for payment by direct deposit.

3) Benefits or wage supplements (Labor Law §198-c): Requires employers to timely pay

all amounts and benefits owed to employees under company policy and sets forth penalties for an employer’s non-compliance.

Though this act does not alter the salary thresholds for classifying employees as exempt from overtime, the DOL has updated their regulations to increase the salary threshold to be classified as an exempt employee. 

Certain executive and administrative employees who meet both the duty and salary requirements are exempt from overtime pay requirements. The salary threshold for classifying an employee as exempt from overtime has been increased as follows: 

  1. In New York City, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties from $1,125.00/week to $1200.00/week ($62,400.00/year),
  2. In the rest of New York State from $1064.25/week to $1,124.20/week ($58,458.40/year).

 If an employee’s salary does not meet the new threshold, the employer will not be able to claim the overtime exemption for that employee, which could result in increased labor costs.

The above changes will provide increased wage protections for employees. The above changes will allow DOL to commence wage theft investigations for any individual making less than $1,300.00 a week.  The above changes to Labor Law §§190 et. al. and the increased salary threshold for overtime may lead to an increase in DOL audits and wage theft litigation. Employers should review their payroll practices to ensure compliance with these changes to avoid potential litigation.

For more information, contact Sheats & Bailey, PLLC; a law firm dedicated to serving the construction industry.  Tel: (315) 676-7314.  www.TheConstructionLaw.com.

The information provided above is not intended to serve as specific legal advice for any particular situation.  Competent legal and experienced counsel should be consulted.


Succession Planning…

Earl R. Hall, Executive Director – Syracuse Builders Exchange

Succession planning is never easy and generally not a topic construction industry employers want to think about – until they have to.  In my tenure as Executive Director of New York’s largest construction industry Association, I have assisted employers during their succession planning exercise, which has provided perspective on our members and what options they evaluate as they prepare to assure their business continues. 

Hanging up one’s hard hat for the last time should be a rewarding experience.  Whether you are a business owner, superintendent, foreman or journeyman, reflecting on your career and the industry you leave behind will generate a wide range of emotions.  For business owners, knowing you have a succession plan will provide peace of mind, financial security, and a sense of accomplishment, especially if family is involved in the plan.

Professionals such as accountants, attorneys, bankers, and investment advisors should be engaged during the due diligence process.  Obtaining professional advice is essential in developing a plan, identifying potential options, and avoiding unforeseen issues which might adversely impact the execution of a succession plan.   Additionally, such advisors will help one navigate how to implement the succession plan and what role, if any, the business owner will have during and/or after the transition.

Understanding the assets and liabilities of the business is essential, keeping in mind the company’s greatest assets may be the leadership team and employees.  Identifying potential successors to transition the business in many cases comes from within, so explore such options with those within the company, including employees and family members.  Communicating with those employees and/or family members will provide valuable feedback relative to interest in exploring a succession plan.  From there one can determine whether or not a business consultant or broker may be necessary to identify additional external options.

When to begin exploring a succession plan may vary depending on a range of unique facts and circumstances, so developing a plan with an adequate time frame is essential to obtain goals and objectives.  Planning for the unexpected is being proactive, so working with the company’s executive leadership team, family members and professionals will provide an initial strategic road map for the future.  While there is no certain age to begin succession planning, one should always have at a minimum a business plan in place which would address the “unexpected” event that would impact the ownership of a business.

While the process of succession planning may be similar for all construction industry employers, those employers’ signatory to one or more construction collective bargaining agreements must be aware of potential issues.  Such issues may impact one’s ability to sell the business and/or transition the business to family members.

Union contractors will need to evaluate the termination dates of all collective bargaining agreements and determine how such agreement may or may not impact a succession plan.  Generally, in a business transition or new ownership situation, existing collective bargaining agreements are also transitioned to the new owners of the business, unless the agreements have been properly terminated. Obtaining advice from an attorney familiar with the construction industry and labor agreements will be critical to assist in the decision-making process.

In determining whether or not terminating one or more collective agreements is necessary to effectuate the succession plan, one should consider the impact of any employer withdrawal liability relative to a signatory union’s pension fund or funds.  Determining the employer’s unfunded withdrawal liability should be done by requesting the union pension fund actuary calculate the employer’s withdrawal liability in the event such is triggered by terminating the collective bargaining agreement.  This disclosure may impact the decision-making process or impede one’s ability to implement a preferred or potential succession plan.

Developing a succession plan can be an arduous exercise; however, it is necessary if the desire is to continue the business in the unlikely event of an unexpected matter or while considering retirement.  Surrounding yourself with a great support team of professionals and other invested individuals who care about the employer will pay dividends during the succession planning process.

Abscope Environmental, Inc. Celebrates 35-Year Anniversary

by Becca Taurisano

Abscope Environmental, Inc. is a Canastota, New York-based, full-service remediation firm in its 35th year of business, thanks to a proud legacy started by founders John Romagnoli and his son, Jack. Beginning in 1989 as solely an asbestos abatement company, Abscope expanded into more comprehensive environmental remediation services in 1994 and fast tracked its growth in 2004 when Jack’s brother Jerry came on board. Planning for their succession, Jack and Jerry looked to their youngest brother, Bob Romagnoli, to take the reins. Bob became President of Abscope in 2019 and later, CEO, in 2020 as both brothers retired. While the company has experienced tremendous growth since its founding, Bob and his partners are now poised to expand into new geographical regions, offer new and innovative services, and most importantly, sustain the business for the next generation.

An Experienced Leadership Team

With more than 25 years of environmental consulting experience, Bob Romagnoli is an engineer by trade, but brought a vast array of leadership and operational skills to help Abscope redefine itself as a more state-of-the-art organization. During his career, Romagnoli led multi-million-dollar Superfund sediment remediation programs and developed turn-key environmental strategies for Fortune 100 companies, serving as Sr. Vice President at Arcadis and Managing Director at TIG Environmental.

Working closely with Romagnoli are three key long-time Abscope employees: Executive Vice President Rob Gray, Executive Vice President Robert Duffy, and General Manager, Steve Mitchell. All three have been with the company for decades and are part owners of the firm.

Rob Gray joined Abscope in 1995 when he started as an estimator. Over time his role grew into a managerial one and he currently serves as the Executive Vice President of the Environmental Remediation and Geotechnical Services division. Gray has extensive experience in Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) remediation, hazardous waste remediation, stream sediment removal, In-Situ Stabilization (ISS), sheet pile installation, deep excavations, and site development projects.

Executive Vice President Robert Duffy and General Manager Steve Mitchell lead the Asbestos Abatement and Industrial Decontamination division. They oversee the removal, encapsulation, enclosure, transportation, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, building demolition, and lead and mold remediation. Duffy has been part of the Abscope team since its inception in 1989 and has been crucial to its success and growth. He is responsible for estimating, proposal development, submittal generation, waste disposal coordination, and final report development, not to mention business development.

Mitchell has been with the company 30 years and is responsible for coordinating manpower across both divisions, a task that can be very challenging, especially in today’s environment. “Stevie’s attention to detail is second to none” says Romagnoli. “He’s the ultimate team player and always puts the company’s interests first.” 

Romagnoli said it took some time for the leadership team to learn how to best work together but have now struck the right balance. “These three guys have been here for decades and have significantly contributed to the success of this company,” said Romagnoli. “My role is to allow them to continue building on that success, while bringing a new perspective on operational and strategic matters.”

A Fresh Perspective

After joining Abscope, Romagnoli immediately identified several key areas for improvement, the most evident of which was in-house technology. While IT changes are never easy to implement, Romagnoli felt they were imperative to keeping Abscope at the forefront of the industry.

As an example, Abscope invested heavily in upgrading their take-off and estimating systems. The conversion to InSite and HeavyBid allowed for higher productivity and more accurate results. According to Romagnoli, the value was apparent from day one. “Our PMs have done a great job in assimilating to these new systems which in turn have allowed them to be much more productive. Given the complexity of the new platforms, we’ve only scratched the surface of their potential. I’m excited to see how much more we can extract and use to our benefit.”

Abscope also upgraded the GPS equipment on their “yellow iron” with the latest, most cutting-edge Trimble™ technology, including Trimble™ TSC7 v2s and R780 bases and rovers. The new equipment delivers the latest in field technology, optimizing efficiency and most importantly, accuracy. Abscope’s fleet is extensive, consisting of approximately 30 pieces of heavy equipment.

On the administration side, Abscope recently converted the invoice approval and payment process from paper-based to digital. “It is much more efficient for our PMs to digitally approve vendor invoices versus dealing with mounds and mounds of paper,” said Romagnoli. “The system has also minimized duplicate or erroneous payments.” Field Superintendents are also joining in Abscope’s IT revolution, now using tablet apps to track time, significantly reducing transcription errors within the accounting department.

New Horizons

From the types of projects, the size and scope of the work, and even the geographical location, much has changed at Abscope since its beginning in 1989. Most recently, there has been a surge of projects in the alternative energy space and Abscope has provided civil works for commercial-scale solar and wind projects. The work generally includes preparing the site for ultimate component installation by others and consists of earthwork, installation of storm water drainage, development of access roads, crane pads, and various other site features.

“Alternative energy has exploded for us, and it is not something that we necessarily expected,” said Romagnoli. “Smaller, more local opportunities have opened us up to much larger and broader opportunities nation-wide.” In fact, there has been so much growth, Abscope is considering the creation of a new division to execute the work.

Abscope’s job size and scope 

has changed too over the years. In the early years, jobs were $500,000 or less lasting up to a month, but now jobs range from $10 to $12 million lasting six months to a year. “The diversity of our projects shows how we have grown,” said Gray. “Today our projects are more complicated and the systems we have been installing are much more sophisticated.”

Geographically things are changing as well. Gray recalls in the early days, most of the work was within a two-to-three-hour radius, but not lately. Remediation projects are bringing Abscope’s crews to the Mid Atlantic, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, and as far away as Puerto Rico. In 2022, they successfully completed a challenging six-month project in Dallas, TX with a world-renowned chemical manufacturer, where Abscope remediated asbestos contaminated soil on residential and small commercial properties. “We are now set up well to handle these larger, more complex projects,” said Romagnoli. “It is exciting to see such large and iconic companies/clients view us as a trusted partner.”

Thanks to the successful completion of the Dallas project, the very same Fortune 500 client selected Abscope for a large PCB soil remediation project in Puerto Rico in 2024. “We are grateful to them for giving us this unique opportunity to assist in such a highly visible and intricate project, especially in a geographic location that’s not necessarily familiar to us.” Abscope has invested a significant amount of time and money to make sure the project goes off without a hitch. “Ideally we’d love to leverage this opportunity to do other work (e.g., emergency response and disaster assistance) in Puerto Rico in future years, but for now, we need to keep our eye on the ball and ensure that this critical project is successful” said Romagnoli.

With Romagnoli’s experience 

in sediment removal, stream remediation, and shoreline stabilization, Abscope has been doing more work in those markets as well. “We most recently did a shoreline stabilization job in Lackawanna along Lake Erie,” said Gray. “With all the erosion from wind and waves, shoreline stabilization has been a big area of focus for us.” The addition of wetland and stream remediation is one example of how complex their current projects are due to the adherence to regulations with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the plantings, soils, and rocks required during the restoration process.

As work around the country continues to grow, Romagnoli and Gray are considering an expansion into new office locations. “We are looking to expand in the near future and discussing our growth plans for the Mid Atlantic area,” Gray said. With upcoming work in Puerto Rico, Romagnoli could see an office location in Florida as well to support the Southeast and Caribbean. “There is a lot of potential there, just a question of if and where,” he said.

Safety First

From environmental remediation to asbestos abatement, sediment dredging to shore stabilization, deep excavation to restoration, safety is Abscope’s number one priority. Duffy was instrumental in the creation of project-specific health and safety work plans for Abscope’s company-wide, behavior-based Health and Safety program. His daily interaction with clients, regulatory personnel, subcontractors, and project engineers as well as having managed or supervised over 3,500 asbestos abatement projects gives him a keen understanding of the safety issues facing field workers. “There are so many things that could go wrong on a job,” said Duffy. “We have to get ahead of it and make sure everyone is as safe as possible.”

On project sites, Abscope superintendents hold Toolbox Talks or safety meetings every morning to discuss the particulars of the job, what protective equipment is required, and what to do if something goes wrong. “Our guys in the field are very diligent when it comes to safety; they know there are no short cuts,” said Romagnoli.

The leadership team, Project Managers, and employees in the field also attend monthly safety calls to share stories about “good catches;” things on the job that could cause an injury. Good catches are recognized on the monthly safety calls and quarterly safety awards are given out to employees who are most focused on safety. “We rank health and safety here above everything else,” said Gray. “We take it very seriously.”

Investing in the Future

One of Romagnoli’s other priorities has been to bolster Abscope’s employee benefits and incentives. Romagnoli is focused not only on employee retention but attracting new talent as well. As an example, Romagnoli established a 401(k) program for the company back in 2020 to help employees help themselves. Abscope also provides a generous match. In addition, Romagnoli also set up a tuition reimbursement program that is meant to

encourage staff to continuously improve their skills. “We’re always looking to get better, but we want to make sure to take care of those that continue to make this company what it is,” he said.

Looking ahead to the future, Romagnoli would like to see the company grow to $25-30 million over the next five years. From acquisitions to new office locations, he is focused on building out systems and services to benefit the next generation. “My Dad would be bursting with pride seeing that the company has stayed in the family and become so much more than what he anticipated it to be,” he said. There is the potential for other family members to join the company at some point, but for now, Abscope is flourishing under current ownership. By honoring the past and continuing the proud legacy of the Romagnoli family into the future, Abscope is poised to be sustainable for generations to come.  


Diana Plue, Esq. Sheats & Bailey, PLLC

On November 17, 2023, New York State amended sections of General Business Law Article 35E, known as the Prompt Payment Act, which applies to all private commercial construction projects having a value of $150,000.00 or more. This new legislation amends two sections of the Prompt Payment Act: General Business Law section 756-a and 756-c.

Section §756-a (2) of the Prompt Payment Act is amended to allow a contractor to submit a final invoice that includes retainage upon substantial completion of the contract, as defined or contemplated by the terms of the contract.  This is a notable departure from the prior version of the statute, where a Contractor had to wait to submit a final invoice until the contractor performed all its obligations under the contract.

The amendment to GBL § 756-c, limits the amount of retainage that can be withheld by an owner, contractor, or subcontractor on a private construction project. Under this new legislation, the maximum amount of retainage that can be withheld on private construction projects is five percent (5%).  In addition, contractors and subcontractors cannot withhold more retainage than the owner.  So, if the owner does not withhold the maximum 5% in retainage, then the contractor or subcontractor cannot withhold the maximum 5% retainage. Upon receipt of retainage, a contractor or subcontractor must release a proportionate amount of retainage to the relevant down the line subcontractor. Failure to release the retainage per GBL §756-c subjects the owner, contractor, or subcontractor to pay interest at the rate of 1% per month from the date retention was due and owing until paid.  

On their face these amendments dictate that the maximum amount of retainage withheld can only be 5% and that retainage can be billed before the project is fully complete. However, the opening of section 756-a states “except as otherwise provided in this article, the terms and conditions of a construction contract shall supersede the provisions of this article and govern the conduct of the parties thereto.”  Section 757 of the Prompt Payment Act provides only four instances where terms of a contract are void and therefore the parties conduct is fully governed by the Prompt Payment Act, and not the contract terms.  The amount of retainage withheld and the contracts definition of substantial completion are not one of the listed contract terms that are void.  As such, we think there are ways with carefully constructed contract provisions to still withhold 10%. 

Furthermore, the amendment to the GBL §756-a leave the definition of substantial completion to the contracting parties.  Thus, the definition needs to be carefully drafted and vetted by the parties as the definition will dictate when a final invoice can be submitted and thus when final payment received. 

For more information, contact Sheats & Bailey, PLLC; a law firm dedicated to serving the construction industry.  Tel: (315) 676-7314

The information provided in this article is not intended to serve as specific legal advice for any particular situation. Competent legal and experienced counsel should be consulted.



Is fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus a compensable mental injury under the Workers’ Compensation statute? On July 20, 2023, The Appellate Division-Third Department in three separate unanimous opinions decided the issue with a resounding “NO”.

Matters of Matthews, Brown, and Djanuzakov* involved claims filed against the New York City Transit Authority and its subsidiary by claimants who had public facing jobs.  The claimants, a train conductor, cleaner and bus driver filed mental stress claims alleging various psychological conditions as a result of being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. The claimants never contracted COVID prior to filing the claim however, they claimed exposure to other workers who tested positive and several coworkers and passengers who died of COVID-19 causing claimants to feel unsafe, depressed, and afraid to return to work.  In all three claims, the treating psychologists gave total disability, finding that the psychological symptoms made it impossible for the claimants to return to work. All three claims were disallowed by the Law Judge and the Workers’ Compensation Board.

In Matter of Brown, the claim was disallowed due to insufficient medical evidence to establish a causal nexus between the mental stress and claimant’s job duties. In Matters of Matthews and Djanuzakov, the Board disallowed the claims finding that the stress experienced by the claimant (train conductor and bus driver respectively) was the same as other similarly situated workers during the pandemic. The attorney representing all three claimants appealed to the Third Department.

The Court noted that “it is well settled that a mental injury arising from work-related stress is compensable” and the fact that the condition was pre-existing will not preclude the claim if the claimant’s employment exacerbated the condition as “to cause a disability which did not previously exist.” The claimant, however, must demonstrate that the stress that caused the injury was “greater than that which other similarly situated workers experienced in the normal work environment.” The Workers’ Compensation Board, as the fact finder, determines whether workplace stress is extraordinary based upon the evidence presented to it. In all three claims, the Third Department found that the Board’s reasoning was supported by the case law and affirmed its decisions.      

2017 and 2022 Legislation to Address Mental Stress Injuries

WCL Section 10 recognizes that certain stressful situations at work may trigger disabling mental injuries. In order for a mental injury to be compensable, the stress that caused it must be considered to be greater than the normal stress at work experienced by similarly situated workers. This evidentiary standard sets a high bar. In 2017, the legislature in recognition of the high standard for mental injury claims by police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians created a carve out by removing the restriction that a mental stress claim had to be greater than the stress sustained by similar first responders.

During the 2022 legislative session, the Assembly and Senate passed a bill that would have extended the exception carve out for first responders to the entire labor force (A2020-A/S.6373-B). In addition, the bill if passed, would eliminate the requirement that the stress stemmed from a work emergency. The Governor vetoed the bill, noting the significant cost to the system, this however, did not stop the bill from being reintroduced during the 2023 session. In 2023, A.5745/S.6635 passed the Senate, but failed to pass the Assembly.       

For more information on workers’ compensation contact Lovell at 1-800-5-LOVELL or visit online www. Lovellsafety.com.

*Matter of Sheldon Matthews v. New York City Transit Authority, 218 AD3d 983 (2023)

Matter of Tracey Brown v. New York City Transit Authority, 218 AD3d 967 (2023)

Matter of Djanuzakov v. Manhattan & Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, 218 AD3d 980 (2023)

Insurance Renewals – Navigating the Hard Market

Actions that aid results

By: Brett Findlay, Vice President, Business Risk Specialist, OneGroup

The New York construction industry, and realistically the entire New York business landscape, is in the midst of an insurance hard market. The lack of insurance availability and the pricing volatility associated with it is leaving consumers in a difficult place when it comes to their insurance renewals. Although insurance options may be limited, it’s critical to know what or who those options are and when to approach them. Proactively managing your program can be an effective solution to unpredictable insurance renewals.

A hard insurance market is characterized by an increased demand for insurance coverage coupled with reduced supply. Underwriting guidelines from the carriers will become more stringent, policies issued by carriers will decrease, premiums are higher, and carriers are less willing to negotiate terms. The current market is hard and exhibits all of those tendencies. The question is, how do you proactively and effectively manage your program to counter the marketplace?

There are a couple simple strategies you can deploy to make this process more manageable and limit surprises and negative outcomes for your business.

Know where to look. A lack of options and higher prices are attributable to most coverage lines of insurance right now, including but not limited to property, commercial automobile liability, and umbrella liability. Identifying the key coverage lines of your program and asking your agent what the renewal is looking like early in the process is the first step. At that point, you should be gathering the data necessary for the carriers to quote those lines for you. Accurate data, provided in full 90+ days prior to the renewal date, will help your cause.

Be ahead of the renewal. By starting the renewal process early, 90+ days out, and by utilizing a broker who understands your business and the insurance marketplace, you’re putting yourself in a better position. It’s critical to select a broker that has availability to those necessary carriers. Ask the broker at that early stage what their marketing strategy is, what carriers they’ll be approaching and why.  Some of the carriers may need to visit your operations and meet with key team members in advance of providing alternatives. As they are interviewing you, this is a great time to ask them questions to see if a partnership would be a good fit for your operations and growth strategy. This is a key reason for why timing is so important. When you are discussing this process with your agent, if you’re not comfortable with their answers, it may be time to find a new one.

Know the landscape (and how to work within it). Much like the construction industry, insurance companies aren’t immune to staffing shortages either. Underwriters are going to work on accounts where they have all the data necessary to finish their process and in a timely manner. If you are not in front of them early, with what they need, the likelihood that you’ll be getting their best is drastically reduced.

It’s equally important that your agent is competent in representing your best attributes. The ability of that agent to forecast the costs and insurance availability with the proper insurance carrier should be a pre-requisite. Knowing how to communicate your businesses story is also key. You need someone who knows construction, knows your business, and knows the carriers and underwriters that are writing insurance competitively for your type of operations.

Relationships Matter. A broker’s relationship with their carriers is every bit as important as your relationship to your agent; there are two sides to the relationship. Having an agency that is well respected in the local insurance marketplace is critical to getting the best program in place at the most competitive cost. This becomes even more critical when the availability of options is limited. I firmly believe that instead of selecting multiple brokers to “quote” your insurance, it’s significantly more beneficial to interview brokers and select one to represent you. You’ll garner greater respect and attention to your business if the local underwriters know that you’re serious about your program and who represents it. If they get multiple submissions from different agents, and the data those agents submit is conflicting, the likelihood that you’ll get their best is also limited.

Typically, a hard market is not a fun process to go through. But you have the ability to proactively position your business to handle the situation. Talk to your agent, prepare yourself for the unexpected and the possibility of having to market your insurance, and get in front of the curve. Contractors, especially in today’s Upstate New York economic landscape, must be sharper than ever to increase or even maintain profit margins. Preparing yourself for a hard market and forecasting any potential dramatic increases in your insurance costs will put you in a better position to control those margins.

For more information on renewing your insurance, you may reach out to Brett Findlay at 315-280-6376 or by email at BFindlay@OneGroup.com.