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Former workers of SE Kansas company that closed are frustrated they still haven't seen paychecks

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Many former workers of the Kanza company, a company that was in Parsons, Kansas but is now closed, are still upset they don't have paychecks.  Adding to their frustration, a new company coming to Parsons has a connection to Kanza.

We've agreed to not release the identity of the former Kanza employee we talked with because he's concerned he may never get his paycheck.

There's a saying that rails talk, and word gets around quickly among workers in the railroad industry.  Omaha Track Incorporated will soon start repairing railcars at a facility in Parsons.  

But last year, a different company occupied the space:  Kanza.

In August, the Kansas Department of Revenue seized all assets from Kanza.  State officials say the owner, Steve Hutchinson, owed $1.15 million in state sales and withholding tax.  A state worker told us the state was working with lien holders to make sure employees got a final paycheck.  Several now former employees say that never happened.

"That month that you didn't have that money, that was pretty bad.  People lost their car, maybe, or could not pay their bills," says a former Kanza employee.

The former worker we interviewed says he's still owed close to $2,000.  Former owner Hutchinson already has a new job as a general manager with the company that bought his facility.

The former employee says, "Who says he's not going to mess everybody else over again?"

"We feel that he is a good manager, an ideal fit for this particular operation, and with our oversight and direction, that he'll do a good job for us down there," says Terry Peterson, president of Omaha Track.

"They did have some financial difficulties, but Steve is really a knowledgeable person.  Some of the issues that plagued Kanza are probably not directly related to anything that he did," says Peterson.

Workers with Omaha Track say they're offering a goodwill gesture to former Kanza workers by paying what's due to them only if they come back to work for the new company.

"We don't have any obligation to pay any of these back wages," says Peterson.

But some of the former workers, who have since found new jobs, consider this a bribe for something they should get regardless.  At least one former worker, though, has agreed to come back.

We left a phone message with a state official, asking why former Kanza employees have still not been paid, despite state revenue department workers saying they would.  We have not heard back from the state.

We did see Steve Hutchinson at the facility today.  He did not want to be interviewed on camera, but said legal matters are what's keeping him from paying former workers.  Hutchinson says, though, no former workers are involved in those legal matters.




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