Selectmen nearing a decision on Stoughton land? Pulte reputation a factor?

Tonight the Selectmen will go into executive session as Trustees of the Governor Stoughton land. They are getting close to the point where they need to make a decision from among the 5 proposals they have received. According to the RFP they had targeted April 21st as the date to make an award. That did not happen. They felt they needed more time. Tom Hurley joined the board and had to get up to speed. There is a lot to get up to speed on. However, the 120 day window by which they need closure on proposals submitted for RFP is approaching.

The proposals will not be made public until after award is made. Nor is there much information available on the developers. One, however, Pulte has been in the news and the news is not all good.

Pulte Homes was ranked as the fourth largest home builder in the U.S. in 2007 based on home closings and revenue. This is according to a summary sheet issued by the Department of Environmental Protection in June of 2008 outlining the settlement of a case between Pulte Homes and the States of Maryland, Tennessee, Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia. According to settlement, Pulte will pay $877,000 penalty and implement an environmental project costing $608,000 as result of failure to abide by best practices regarding management of storm and water run off which have significant environmental impacts.

Also in May of 2008 the Interfaith Worker Justice Organization issued a report finding fault with labor practices in Arizona and Nevada. The report states that it “discovered a disturbing pattern of injustice and abuse among contractors paid by Pulte to build homes for the company. Workers talked about a number of serious problems, including dangerous working conditions, on payment of overtime, wages so low that workers have to work 60-70 hours a week in order to make ends meet, and lack of affordable health care and other benefits.”

Apparently, the problems were not only in Arizona and Nevada and did not end in 2008. The Patriot Ledger reported on May 14th of this year that a number of non-union workers in Braintree and Natick were accusing Pulte of failure to pay wages. The article claims, “Metrowest Worker Center coordinator Diego Low, whose organization represents immigrants in the Framingham area, says as many as 50 workers are still waiting to be paid – weeks after they worked. He says he’s never seen such a rampant failure to pay construction workers for the work they’ve done.” (Read the full story here.)

Unions complaints against Pulte do not end there. In late 2010 unions disrupted a conference of the Mortgage Bankers Association and other events asking why Pulte received $9oo million in stimulus funds ostensibly to create jobs and then laid off workers.

Pulte has problems.

The other developers: Weston Associates, Governor Stoughton Land Preservation LLC, Community Builders, and the Copeland Foundation have no where near the news trail Pulte does. Weston Associates is a Boston-based firm that is looking to build a mixed use development that would include residential units for Alzheimer’s patients.  Community Builders is a developer of affordable housing and has offices in Boston, Chicago, and Washington DC. Governor Stoughton Land Preservation LLC is managed by Frank Mulligan who lives on Governor Stoughton’s Lane that abuts the Stoughton property and the Copeland Foundation is a local philanthropy that has supported a number of educational and civic ventures in town. Searches turn up no news of note.

The selectmen have a difficult decision to make. It is possible, though unlikely, that they will decide not to select any of the proposals as not properly addressing the RFP and meeting the intent of Governor Stoughton’s will. As they state in RFP, “The Trustees may cancel this RFP or reject, in whole or in part, any and all Proposals, if the Trustees determine that cancellation or rejection is in the best interest of the Governor Stoughton Trust.”

A decision may come out of tonight’s session. Should they select a proposal it will need to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and the Probate Court.

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