St. Paul, Minn.—The St. Paul Port Authority has temporarily suspended its effort to take the property of Advance Shoring, a decades-old St. Paul business, after employees, their unions, management and owners united with a public interest law firm to protest the Port Authority’s use of eminent domain. In late November, the Port Authority asked the St. Paul City Council to remove from its Nov. 26, 2008, meeting agenda a vote on the proposed condemnation of Advance’s property. Council approval is required in order to condemn Advance’s property.
“I’m breathing a sigh of relief for our business and its employees,” said Karen Haug, CEO of Advance Shoring Company. “Together, we showed the Port Authority and the city council just how intertwined jobs are with property rights.”
Advance has 43 employees, 19 of whom are members of Local 120 of the Teamsters and Local 49 of the Operating Engineers. Twenty-one, or nearly half of Advance’s employees, have been with the company for more than 20 years. It pays its employees, on average, in excess of $24 per hour with full benefits.
“Advance wants to stay put, and it has the right to do so,” said IJ Minnesota Chapter Executive Director Lee McGrath. “Perhaps the Port Authority can find a new suitable site in St. Paul for Advance Shoring and handle this without government force. But the fight to protect Karen Haug’s property is far from over.”
At the Port Authority’s request, Advance Shoring entered into a confidentiality agreement that delays a city council vote concerning the property for approximately six months. This gives the Port Authority time to provide Haug a list of potential relocation sites in St. Paul without public disclosure of the addresses of those sites. The confidentiality agreement notes that Advance intends to protect its private property rights if the Port Authority continues to pursue condemnation proceedings.
“I’ve stated from the beginning that we are happy where we are, but that we would consider relocation sites in the City of St. Paul,” said Haug. “We are trying to be reasonable and give the Port Authority the opportunity to help us stay in our community so we can continue to serve the construction industry with timely delivery of cranes, scaffolding and shoring equipment.”
But, Haug added, “We are not wavering in our conviction that the Port Authority’s attempt to take our land is wrong. We should not be forced from our land. Employees and management want to stay right where we are in St. Paul’s North End and will continue to fight the Port Authority if necessary.”
Under the confidentiality agreement, the Port Authority may not request the city council’s vote on a new condemnation petition until June 10, 2009.