Another YouTube video enters Eagle retail fray
Eagle, CO Colorado
EAGLE – Once again, a YouTube video has been circulating around Eagle and stirring up controversy about Eagle River Station.
This time, the video is TV broadcast about a project Eagle River Station’s developers launched in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Several Eagle residents said they received an e-mail containing a link to
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMQToCkC5LU, which shows a broadcast by Kansas City’s KMBC 9 News.
The broadcast talks about the state of Missouri’s investigation into whether the city of Lee’s Summit and its development partner, RED Development, followed the state’s labor laws when they built the Summit Fair shopping center.
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It quotes Dave Wilson, a spokesman for a Kansas City carpenters’ union, that says developers did not pay workers the area’s prevailing wage, as required on public projects.
In the video, developers argue that they did pay prevailing wage on the public portions of the project such as lights and streets – those subject to a $52 million tax increment financing package from the city. However developers argue the prevailing wage laws do not apply to construction of the shopping center itself, which received no TIF funds.
The video goes on to quote Wilson as saying that the developers of Summit Fair hired few Kansas City regional workers for the Summit Fair project. Footage then pans across out-of-state license plates on workers’ cars.
The broadcast dates back to May. A spokeswoman for Missouri’s labor division said she can’t comment on ongoing investigations, but said the state has not released any findings on the Summit Fair project.
Opponents of Eagle River Station claim the video casts doubt on whether developers will hire local labor for the project’s construction. Residents will vote Jan. 5 on whether Trinity RED Eagle Development can build a shopping center including a Target and 581 condos in Eagle.
Wilson, from the carpenters’ union, said he forwarded the YouTube link to a spokeswoman for a citizens’ group opposing Eagle River Station.
“Our guys have been trying to talk to folks up there about what kind of protections there will be for local workers in the development agreement,” Wilson said. “We’re afraid that what happened in Lee’s Summit is going to also happen in Eagle.
“We’ve got a number of carpenters we represent who live right there in the town of Eagle. We need the work but the problem is: We’re afraid we’re going to see the same thing happen in Eagle that we saw in Summit, which was a bunch of out-of-town contractors come to do that work.”
But developers of Eagle River Station say they plan to use as much local labor as possible.
“Can we say it’s going to be a certain percentage? No we can’t say that at this point,” said Paul Witt, a spokesman for Trinity RED. “I think the track record speaks for itself.”
Witt said RED Development used, on average, 85 percent local labor for its past five projects. The amount of local labor ranged from 66 percent at Summit Fair to 98 percent at ONE Nineteen, a shopping center in Leawood, Kan., Witt said.
Some people, like Town Trustee Stephen Richards, believe Trinity RED will follow through on its promise to use local labor.
“One of the things you learn when you’re building in the mountains is: You can always get bids from Denver or other places from further away that are a lot cheaper but unfortunately, when those people get there, they haven’t built in the mountains before,” Richards said.
Those contractors have been known to make costly mistakes or abandon projects here because they are not accustomed to working in mountain conditions, he said. Working in cold and snow, along with living in cheap motel rooms during the project often wears on out-of-area workers, Richards said. Likewise, Trustee Mikel Kerst said the developers have a good track record of hiring local labor.
But some people in Eagle think the developers are making empty promises when it comes to using local labor. Jan Rosenthal Townsend, a spokeswoman for a campaign opposing Eagle River Station, thinks the Lee’s Summit example speaks volumes about Eagle River Station.
“If it happened there, it would happen here, and the license plates in that video prove it,” she said.
It’s worth noting that the carpenter’s union quoted in the YouTube video, the Carpenters’ District Council of Kansas City and Vicinity, isn’t exactly a neutral source. Witt said the union lost the bidding war for the work on Summit Fair because its bids were significantly higher than the low bid.
However, one Lee’s Summit councilman backs up the union’s claim that not much local labor was used for the Summit Fair shopping center itself.
“I think to a great extent of the public portion, the street construction and so forth, they probably did hire local firms under prevailing wage,” City Councilman Bob Johnson said. “Of the jobs they did on their property, those were basically out-of-state people, out-of-town people and not many local people employed at all.”
Witt said RED has agreed not to use the contractor it picked for Summit Fair.
This isn’t the first time a YouTube video has plunged into the Eagle River Station controversy. A video titled NoBailout4RED surfaced earlier this year. It was produced by the Carpenter’s District Council and slammed RED Development over financing issues surrounding Summit Fair, alleging that RED received $52 million in “direct taxpayer subsidies” but needed an additional $9 million loan from the city to complete construction.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.