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Contractors Say They Are Still Owed Money for Work Done for Hartford's Back9Network

glenn_salamone_qsr_back9.jpg
Jeff Cohen
/
WNPR
Glenn Salamone at the Hartford yard of his company QSR Steel. He said he is still owed more than $50,000 for its work for Back9Network.
Glenn Salamone said that while his work for Back9 is done, he’s still owed about $51,000.

The Back9Network has been on life support since February, having burned through the millions of dollars it raised from the state and private investors. Now another group of people is being squeezed by Back9’s demise: unpaid contractors who built the network’s downtown Hartford studio. 

Glenn Salamone runs a steel fabricating business. He worked on Back9’s Constitution Plaza studio and he’s seen the news. He knows the state is out more than $5 million on Back9. He knows private investors have lost a lot more. But, he asked, what about guys like him?

“Cause, you know what? It’s not right. There’s a principle to this,” Salamone said. “We did the work. We should get paid. I know the state donated some money, and I know that banks have some money, and they’ll be the first ones to get paid. But somebody’s got to fight for the guy who’s doing the work. Bottom line.”

Salamone said his company QSR Steel did about $66,000 worth of work for the nascent golf network -- things like putting down beams for a generator pad. But while the work is done, he’s still owed about $51,000.

“Construction is all about cash flow,” Salamone said. “Cash is king... If you don’t get $50,000 in, that’s a big nut. That’s a weekly payroll. That’s a yearly salary for one of our guys.”

Salamone’s contract was with the project’s general contractor -- Associated Construction, a Hartford company that ran Back9’s studio construction project downtown. According to its website, the company has also done work for ESPN and NBC Connecticut. Efforts to reach the company were unsuccessful.

Salamone could have tried to protect his company and file a lien -- a notice placed in the city’s land records that essentially says he’s owed money. But he didn’t. That’s because people at Associated Construction asked him not to, he said.

“He said to me, if we do that, it’s going to scare the investors away,” Salamone said. “It’s going to rock the boat, and chances are nobody’s going to get paid.”

But even though Associated asked Salamone not to risk the project’s funding by filing a lien, it apparently didn’t take its own advice. In February, Associated filed a lien saying Back9 owed it more than $416,000. And Salamone can’t file one now -- the deadline has passed.

“He essentially covered his ass,” Salamone said of the leadership at Associated Construction. “The majority of guys who are out this money are the ones who did the work. And none of them have a lien on the job. Because I know, from talking to some other subs, the one I talked to today I told you about, he got the same story. Was the money was coming.”

WNPR reached out to numerous subcontractors on the job. An architect filed a lien and said he’s owed more than $15,000. Another contractor who wanted not to be named told WNPR his company is out thousands. And Jack Squillacote said his commercial interior framing and drywall company hasn’t gotten paid around $10,000 on a roughly $130,000 job.

Like Salamone, Squillacote said that he, too, was encouraged not to file a lien.

“It was understood, you know, hey, we go down this road, we’re all not going to get it,” Squillacote said. “The problem is, we’re smaller companies and forking out money to keep payroll going every week and doing this and that -- and I understand that these guys lost a lot of money, some of the investors. But, for them, a lot of them, they don’t even know it. For us, we’re scraping to make payroll every week. So, $10,000 may not seem like a lot to somebody. But, to us, it’s a lot.”

In a statement, the Back9Network said it “continues to work on a proposal to restructure the company which we believe will be in the best interest of all of our stakeholders." The state said that while Back9 may not have paid its contractors, it is current on its loan payments to state taxpayers.

Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.

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