Some Glenwood `spruce-up’ workers have been left holding the bag
Some say the Glenwood Springs man who was “springing for a spruce-up” neglected to pick up the tab. Two men who worked for Jeff Hiltner’s highly-visible cleanup brigade informed the Post Independent they haven’t been paid for their work in more than a week. They say many others are having the same problem. “I haven’t been paid since the Friday before last,” Hiltner employee John Ator said Wednesday in a phone call from the Salvation Army day shelter.When Hiltner first began, he was paying his crews – many of whom are homeless, immigrants or both – $13 an hour. He set them out to clean up sections of Glenwood Springs beginning in November, apparently with no thought of making a profit for himself. By providing this service Hiltner was praised by citizens and city officials alike for his community-minded efforts. Since then, however, residents have complained about his crews wandering onto private property without permission and destroying flower beds.Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson said he’s received several calls from citizens with complaints including trespassing on private property and people being spooked by the group hanging around in some areas. Wilson said unless someone calls police as the trespass is happening, there is little the department can do. He said other than being on private property, it doesn’t appear the crews have done anything else illegal. Allegations that he isn’t paying his employees surfaced this week.Ator said he’s frustrated because, he said, Hiltner recently purchased several vehicles, including some Ford trucks and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but declined to pay Ator his wages. “When he did that, I figured, `Why doesn’t he pay me my measly $200 and get it over with?'” Ator asked. Another employee, Jack Woolsey, said he is owed around $1,800 for work he didfor Hiltner. On Tuesday, Woolsey claims he was given a check for part of his back wages, but claimed the check bounced.Woolsey said Wednesday he was getting ready to file a grievance against Hiltner for the bounced check to try to get his money. To file a grievance, workers must visit the Colorado Workforce Center at 51027 Highway 6 & 24, fill out a demand for wage claim and send the claim to Denver. A representative at the workforce center said she had not heard any complaints that Hiltner isn’t paying his employees. But people picking up grievance forms don’t usually say who the nonpaying employer is, she said, and workforce center staff doesn’t ask.Hiltner did not return repeated telephone calls.Woolsey said he’s worked for Hiltner, owner of Hiltner Construction Co., for 13 years and he’s never seen the man act the way he has in the last two months. “Up until the last 1 1/2 to two months, it’s been good duty. Then something happened to him,” Woolsey said. Woolsey said he’s concerned about Hiltner. It is still unclear what is motivating Hiltner to clean up the city. Crews have been raking and bagging leaves and branches, and picking up trash.Woolsey also talked about Hiltner’s recent vehicle-purchasing spree. “He bought five to six new Ford pickups and two Excursions in the last month,” Woolsey said. “He keeps saying, `I need a fleet.'”Shortly after noon on Tuesday, three men and a woman were hanging around outside of Hiltner’s home, 737 Bennett Ave. Each declined to comment on whether they were being paid or why they appeared to be waiting for Hiltner. Ator said he wants to see all the workers who labored for Hiltner get paid. “There’s people with families who took the job because it paid better than the temporary service,” he said. “On a daily basis, there were around 50 people working for him.”Ator also said he has friends who are trying to get back home to Iowa, but can’t buy a bus ticket because they haven’t been paid.On Monday, worker Mike Lucero said he wasn’t concerned about being paid because he trusted that Hiltner would do the right thing. “He said it would take a little while to pay,” Lucero said. “He promised everybody he was going to pay.”As for Hiltner’s motivation for hiring the cleanup crews, Lucero said Hiltner told him: “There’s a lot of needy people here and he wants to help them out.”
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.