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Council members concerned about project near UC

From Towne Properties website

Some Cincinnati Council Members have serious problems with the subcontractors working on a major economic development project near the University of Cincinnati campus.

Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young visited the USquare at the Loop construction site last week and talked to some of the workers. 

The council members alleged some of the subcontractors are not paying workers the state mandated prevailing wage and the employees are not paying city income taxes. 

They said that's cost the city about $500,000 so far.

Thomas and Young also said some of the companies have not registered with the city as they're required. 

Young said 3 workers claim they're being paid a flat rate of $500 for 60 hours of work.

“Obviously these workers if what they say is true, they’re being exploited and they’re being exploited on a city project,” Young said.  “And because we helped to fund this project, it really troubles me to believe that the city then looks like it is exploiting workers.  I have a real issue with that.”

Young said the 3 workers claim they were forced to sign paperwork saying they were being paid the prevailing wage even though they were getting the flat rate payment. 

A city spokesperson said the prevailing wage requirement affects only the public portions of the project which include 2 parking garages, a plaza and street work.  It's not required for the private part including apartments, retail and office space. 

USquare at the Loop is on 2 city blocks between McMillan and Calhoun Streets. 

Towne Properties developed and will manage it.  Arn Bortz with the company said there's no merit to the council members accusations.

“I can’t speak to someone saying well someone told me this on the site and did this to me unless there’s some verification of it,” Bortz said.  “We supervise our subcontractors very carefully, we are in compliance with all city requirements and that’s really all we can say.  I can’t control what a few of a couple of hundred people might say on the job site when approached by a stranger asking questions.”

The council members are promising public hearings and additional investigations of other projects.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.