By Leslie H. Dixon
OXFORD — Completion of the Hampton Inn on Route 26 is set for the end of the summer despite an on site union rally held last week to protest hiring practices of a project subcontractor and delays caused when a project framing company had to be replaced and by occasional depletion of manpower.
The 92-room, four-floor, $15 million Hampton Inn located across the street from Oxford Casino, was originally expected to be opened by June 2016. Groundbreaking was held in March 2014.
John K. S. Cleary, vice president for hospitality at Calamar in New York, said the project is in the final push to be completed. The hope is to complete it by the end of summer.
“The project has been moving along well, albeit not as quickly as we all would prefer,” Cleary said Monday, July 18, in an email to the Advertiser Democrat.
The hotel project was expected to create as many as 50 to 90 temporary construction jobs and once opened create 23 part- and full-time jobs, from executive, administrative and clerical positions to maintenance and transportation with salaries ranging from $25,000 to $80,000.
The roughly 4-acre property where the hotel is being built on the north side of Route 26 was sold by Suzanne Hall, the owner of Crestholm Farms, to GIRI Oxford I LLC, a subsidiary of GIRI, in November 2013. The GIRI Hotel management group then signed an agreement with New York-based Calamar to construct the hotel.
Cleary said the project was delayed by a local framer “who failed to perform as contracted and needed to be replaced.” He declined to identify the company or the issue except to say the framer “performed poorly” and did not perform to the scope of work or follow the contract that he signed.
“We provided the framer an opportunity to rectify the issues and the framer did not do so. We terminated his contract per our agreement and replaced him,” Cleary said.
Additionally, an occasional lack of manpower has also caused delays for the project, Cleary said.
“Due to the busy construction season and the overall number of projects in Maine the project has been occasionally slowed only due to a lack of available manpower as many of the contractors have had to split crews to cover multiple projects,” he said.
The hotel project also ran into a publicity snag last week when members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters staged a rally on Thursday, July 14, in front of the construction site on Route 26 to bring attention to what they say is the illegal action of TEC Construction, drywallers for the hotel job, bringing in workers who are not carrying workman’s compensation.
“You need workman’s comp on the job. It’s very simple,” said John Leavitt, regional business manager for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. “We turned them in [to the state Department of Labor]. We said, ‘You need workman’s comp.’”
Cleary said the rally did not disrupt work.
“I am aware of the situation that took place last week for one day with a local union. It is my understanding that it was a one-day event. The action did not interrupt construction,” he said.
Leavitt said the problem could be avoided if the state stepped up its enforcement.
Leavitt said companies are going under because others are allowed to hire workers who are misclassified and don’t carry the proper insurance.
Misclassification means treating workers as independent contractors when legally they should be employees, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Standards in the Maine Department of Labor.
The issue locally was brought to light by a representative of the NERCC, who filed a tip with the Department of Labor after seeking employment with TEC Construction LLC of Connection.
Cleary said the project’s completion is not off schedule by much.
“The project started just over a year ago and while it is taking longer than planned, it is only off slightly,” he said. “It is not uncommon for similar projects to take between 12-15 months. Weather, manpower, material deliveries all factor into the scheduling and length of construction.”