More Workers Stranded, Not Paid

Most heading home from Aspen Heights site Friday night

POSTED: 03:45 PM CST Jan 25, 2013    UPDATED: 05:09 AM CST Feb 15, 2013 

***UPDATE MONDAY 10:01 P.M.*** Workers are still waiting to see payment for their work on the Aspen Heights development that has replaced a local mobile home park. Monday, the owners of Aspen Heights released a statement saying they are working things out. They say they have spoken with the subcontractors to get information about the dozens of unpaid workers. As far as the company knows, all of those workers have found a way home. ***ORIGINAL STORY*** Dozens more out-of-state workers said Friday they hadn't been paid for weeks of work on the same construction site already at the center of a controversy this week. As of Friday night, after meetings with Aspen Heights site management, most of those workers were finally headed back home. The construction site is located off Grindstone Parkway, on Pondersosa Drive and Nifong south of Columbia. Framers from Mississippi, Memphis, Indiana and New York said they were working for a Texas-based company called R-Energy, LLC on a site run by Breckenridge Group - to build a housing complex called Aspen Heights. ABC 17 News learned Friday that Aspen Heights had terminated the contract with R-Energy, LLC because of a concern over the company's performance. When R-Energy, LLC left the job, they didn't pay the subcontractor workers - leaving them with no money for food, a hotel or a way home after weeks of work. An R-Energy representative passed our request for an interview along to spokesman Keith Barkley, who never responded to ABC 17 News. Anthony Jones of Memphis said all he was getting to eat was bologna sandwiches and cookies at work. "I could have stayed home [in Tennessee] and did what I'm doing now," he said. Jones also said he estimates R-Energy owes him $4000 in pay and travel expenses. But the workers aren't the only ones saying they've been taken for a ride. Workers were spread across at least three hotels in Columbia. The Econo Lodge on I-70 Drive Southwest told ABC 17 News it was owed roughly $27,000 for rooms in R-Energy, LLC's name. "If I have to, I'm coming to the mayor of this city then if I have to go further I'm going to the President of the United States and make sure this job gets shut down," said Roosevelt Johnson, also of Memphis, Friday outside the Aspen Heights site. Aspen Heights spokesman Stuart Watkins released the following statement Friday afternoon after the site supervisor met with some of the workers: "Aspen Heights is currently addressing the situation regarding payments between the contractor ER Energy LLC [sic] and its affiliates. Since Thursday, Aspen Heights has requested information from ER Energy LLC's [sic] regarding their outstanding financial obligations. Once information is received from ER Energy LCC [sic], contractual obligations will be reviewed and resolved as soon as possible. In addition, Aspen Heights is currently reaching out to workers affected by this unfortunate situation and providing them resources to return home or address urgent needs." A group of about one dozen workers discussed the situation Friday just off the construction site. They say they first realized they weren't getting paid when they completed a structure to plan specifics and satisfaction this week but never got money. An ABC 17 News investigation earlier this week showed one subcontractor may not even exist anymore, after luring 50 laborers and framers from the Atlanta area. Most of the men told us they were not framers, rather laborers who answered a Craigslist ad from a temp agency. Those workers went back to Atlanta Wednesday evening. The subcontractor, Black Sparta, LLC has never responded to a request for comment - because its website has been taken down, its phone number has been disconnected and the address listed for the business is an extended stay hotel. A class-action lawsuit may be in the works from Everything Staffing, the temp agency, and the workers. ABC 17 News has confirmed one complaint against Aspen Heights filed with the state attorney general's office. The state labor department said this week it couldn't comment on complaints until a violation was found. Calls to OSHAA have not been returned.