MALTA -- The chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors said the state is taking a "heavy handed" approach in attempting to take control of the Luther Forest Technology Campus, and he has contacted Gov. David Paterson to discuss the issue.
Bill Peck, of Northumberland, said in an interview on Monday that he was "surprised and appalled" to learn this weekend that the Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm, had started foreclosure proceedings to take ownership of the 1,400-acre property.
State officials contend they are trying to take over the property because of a series of construction delays that are endangering the future of GlobalFoundries, the computer chip maker building a $4.6 billion factory on the campus.
"I think it was a heavy hand that was overplayed, and there are better ways to solve this issue," Peck said. "We've spent many years in Saratoga County trying to prepare and deliver a site like this, and I don't think it's appropriate to give up our authority over it to the state."
Peck said he was not alerted to the possibility of a foreclosure by Paterson's office or officials at Empire State Development, and he had still not communicated with anyone at either office as of late Monday.
He said he has written to Paterson's office to request a meeting in hopes of resolving the issue, however, and he hopes the interested parties could meet as soon as possible to find an amicable solution.
"I still think with cooler heads that we can resolve this," Peck said. "This has been a team project since the beginning, and I'm not saying I'm unwilling to work with them, but I don't think they should be working by themselves."
If state leaders do not appear willing to cooperate with local officials, though, Peck said the county will do "whatever is necessary to protect the interests of local residents."
"I wouldn't rule anything out at this point," he said.
The main concern among local officials is that state officials could seek to exempt the property from paying local property taxes and could try to bypass local planning and zoning laws.
GlobalFoundries officials have agreed to pay the full property tax bill on their factory. This year, assessors put the property on the tax roll for $160 million, and the company is being asked to pay more than $3 million in local taxes.
Dennis Mullen, chairman of Empire State Development, said in an interview that the state would not seek to alter any tax arrangements that have been made between GlobalFoundries and local officials.
He defended the state's actions, which he said have the blessing of the Paterson administration, and said it is "in the best interest of taxpayers that the state intercedes."
Concerns about construction delays have been percolating for months without resolution, prompting the foreclosure filing on Friday, he said.
"This didn't just happen in a 24-hour period," Mullen said. "There have been concerns for months, so there shouldn't be any surprises here."
State officials said they can foreclose on the entire 1,400-acre campus because Luther Forest officials have defaulted on a portion of $1.75 million in loans provided by New York.
The state has provided the non-profit with more than $80 million in grant money for infrastructure such as roads, utilities and water and sewer lines.
Mullen acknowledged state officials could be more lenient in forgiving the debt or in freeing up more state cash for repayment, and that moving to seize the property on the premise of the unpaid loans is "clearly a means to an end."
"We cannot have an intermediary that has caused concern on the part of GlobalFoundries," Mullen said. "We are going to move as fast as we can and will go as far as we have to to make sure the state is in the best position to make sure this happens on time."
Critical infrastructure such as an access road, a secondary water source and utilities have not been completed.
Travis Bullard, a spokesman for GlobalFoundries, said the project remains on time but that further delays could have a "catastrophic" impact on the company as it looks to come online.
"The sky is not falling at this point, and no one is pushing the panic button," he said. "But they are serious concerns, and we need to put together a plan of action."
GlobalFoundries officials want to begin installing the high-priced tools used in the manufacturing process in June 2011, and to begin low-volume production in mid-2012. The full ramp-up would begin in early 2013, according to the company's time line.
Delays of even a few weeks could mean end customers - mainly computer makers - would be absent the critical chips they need to get their products on store shelves at the right time, Bullard said.
"Timing is such a critical element. You have to time the products to the market exactly," he said. "If you miss the window too early or too late, it could have devastating impacts on the business."
Bullard said company officials haven't been fully briefed on Empire State Development's plans to take over the property, but they do see the state takeover as a "path to deliver the infrastructure in the most efficient manner."
"We're sort of agnostic in terms of who does it, just as long as it gets done," Bullard said.
GlobalFoundries is the only company building at the campus, which straddles the Malta-Stillwater town line. The company has purchased more than 200 acres at the campus and has room to build two more factories.
There are more than a dozen additional sites available and being marketed to other manufacturers in the high-tech arena.
Officials with the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp., the non-profit in charge of installing infrastructure at the tech park, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The organization's executive director, Michael Relyea, made $205,414 last year, according to tax records. The only other paid employee, vice-president Jon Dawes, made $86,882.
Officials with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. also could not be reached on Monday.