March 11, 2003
SPRINGFIELD – Resource Development, Inc. (RDI) of Springfield, Missouri, occupies a small suite of offices at 1411 East Primrose.
There’s little about the offices that would attract the attention of everyday passers-by.
However, as a financial controversy at Windermere Baptist Conference Center becomes public, the connections of the small fund-raising and construction company with Windermere and other Missouri Baptist institutions are attracting considerable public attention.
A study by The Pathway shows that RDI lists Windermere among its "past and present" clients, along with Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Southwest Baptist University, The Baptist Home, William Jewell College, and the Missouri Baptist Convention. Documents obtained by The Pathway reveal that RDI is closely tied to a multi-million dollar construction project underway at Windermere and, in fact, RDI is described as "owner" in a Nov. 7 letter from Walton Construction to a subcontractor working on the project.
RDI’s management team includes Bill Jester, founder and chairman, a 1972 graduate of Southwest Baptist University who has donated $1 million to the school; Jim Hill, president and chief executive officer who is a former executive director of the MBC, and Jerry Hill, senior consultant and legal counsel who is the brother of Jim Hill.
Jerry Hill worked for RDI before his brother left MBC employment and joined RDI, at which point Jim became president and Jerry served as the senior consultant/general counsel.
RDI’s web site describes its relationship with Windermere as assisting "with a broad range of services including organizational analysis, communications, marketing, master plan development, project design and construction management."
"We recently completed construction of their new Lake View Lodge and Conference Center," the web site says. "RDI has led in the design and will manage the construction of a new 1000-bed youth camp during the coming year."
But after millions of dollars of work has been done on a new project, millions of dollars of bills remain unpaid, according to sub-contractors. A Springfield law firm representing three contractors is preparing to record mechanic’s liens against Windermere and the general contractor, RDI, because work done months ago has not been paid.
Richard Hicks, owner of Hicks Construction Inc., of Niangua, says he is owed more than $400,000 for excavating work. The mechanic’s liens will claim $406,902 for Hicks, $232,701 for Meyer Construction, Springfield, and $176,913 for AC Electric, Springfield.
Contractors are pointing the finger at RDI.
"We have been meeting with them (RDI) about once a week," Hicks said. "All we hear is that ‘we’re talking to the banks.’ But they never divulge the name of the banks. Every time we ask, they conveniently never get around to giving us the information so we can verify it."
Two Nov. 7 letters obtained by The Pathway give some insight into the controversy.
In one of the letters, Jerry Hill, who identifies himself at that time as chief operating officer for RDI, writes to Richard B. Quint, Jr., of Walton Construction, and says:
"This will confirm our previous conversations regarding the initial draw on the Windermere expansion project. I believe the original schedule called for the initial draw to be disbursed on Monday, Nov. 11, 2002. As you know, we have not concluded the final details regarding the disbursement of construction financing for this project with our funding source. It is our expectation that the remaining issues will be resolved at the meeting you are participating in tomorrow in Kansas City. Following that meeting, we should have a schedule for the initial disbursements. I anticipate those disbursements being made to Walton and the various sub-contractors within a matter of days. I suggest that you notify the sub-contractors of this schedule and let them know that we will be in touch with them on Monday with a firm date for disbursements.
"As I indicated, I do not want to shift the overall payment schedule for the project. Thus, the second draw would be paid on November 25th."
The follow-up letter from Walton’s agent Quint to subcontractors said:
"Please find attached correspondence received from Construction Resources, LLC (Owner) regarding progress of payments on the above referenced project. We are disappointed in the fact that payments will not be made this coming Monday as scheduled. However, we remain optimistic that the meetings in Kansas City (which we will attend) will resolve all financing issues and payments will be made next week."
Resource Development Inc. was registered with the Secretary of State on Feb. 2, 1979, with Bill Jester as the principal. RDI, LLC, was organized as a limited liability company on Sept. 14, 2000, with Jerald Hill as the organizer and Jim Hill as the registered agent. Construction Resources, LLC, was organized on August 23, 2002, with Jerald Hill as organizer and agent.
Calls to RDI for comment on the situation were not returned.
Hicks said he is puzzled why RDI has set up so many shell companies with the Missouri Secretary of State prior to and during the Windermere work.
"We’ve asked Jerry Hill about the financing, and all he ever says is that it is a very complicated financing arrangement. He calls it three-tier financing with liens on existing buildings and leases," said Jan Hicks, office manager for Hicks Construction.
"(Jerry) Hill said they are anticipating $2.1 million in income off the camp this year. But all we’ve heard are words. We’ve seen no money."