COLUMBIA - Aspen Heights officials said Friday it sent a formal agreement to R-Energy LLC and its subcontractors to pay a group of former construction workers. R-Energy president and owner, Tony Barder, confirmed he received the agreement around 2:30 p.m. Friday. Barder said he is happy the process to finally pay his workers is getting underway. But just because the companies reached an agreement, does not mean the workers will be paid the full amounts they were expecting, Barder said.
On Thursday Aspen Heights said it had reached a verbal agreement with R-Energy. Aspen Heights officials then worked on final paperwork with lawyers Friday morning.
Glen Robinson from Columbia is the acting liaison for the former workers. He said Aspen Heights owes him about $15,000. He said even though the companies are finalizing the agreement, that doesn't mean he will be paid anytime soon. "There are too many people between Aspen Heights and the workers," said Robinson.
Feb. 8 marked the most recent deadline for when R-Energy and Aspen Heights was supposed to strike a deal that would put an end to controversy surrounding unpaid workers. But both companies told KOMU on that day, an official deal hadn't been reached.
The controversy began about two months ago when R-Energy hired a group of men from several states to build at a Columbia student housing construction site. But the men said they were told their work was done the week of Jan. 20 when Aspen Heights terminated its contract with R-Energy due to what it called performance issues. The men said they had worked at the site for more than a month and received little to none of the money they had been promised. The men said their projected payday has continued to change since mid-January.
Barder said he's been trying to work with Aspen Heights to get workers paid. Barder said he has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to pay workers.
However, Stuart Watkins, public relations director for Aspen Heights, said Aspen Heights isn't responsible for the problem. Watkins said Aspen Heights asked R-Energy to give them a list of workers along with how much each individual is owed, and then it would pay the workers.
On Jan. 25 a group of about three dozen workers showed up at the building site to demand pay. There was a police officer on site and the men were asked to leave the property. After waiting for hours, an Aspen Heights employee told the group they could come onto the site one by one to talk with Aspen Heights officials. The men said Aspen Heights officials offered them $500 to buy gas in order to get home, but that was all.