Subscribe for 33¢ / day

State economic development officials moved on Thursday to redirect $8.5 million in grant money previously slated to go to the local group overseeing developments at the Luther Forest Technology Campus.

The move comes roughly three weeks after officials with the Empire State Development Corp. filed court papers seeking to foreclose on the budding technology park in Saratoga County and take ownership of it away from the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp.

Officials with the state-run economic development agency said the Luther Forest group has stalled on critical infrastructure projects that need to be quickly finished so the GlobalFoundries computer chip factory can open on time.

GlobalFoundries is expected to begin full-volume production in 2013, but company officials recently alerted the state that three pieces of infrastructure have been delayed and might jeopardize that time line.

Hoping to expedite the work, Empire State Development's board of directors voted to re-direct state grant money that had originally been awarded to the Luther Forest EDC to the town of Stillwater and to the state Office of General Services.

An $8.4 million grant was transferred to the town of Stillwater and will be used to complete a 4-mile access road to the computer chip factory. The 14-month project was supposed to begin in August, but work has yet to start.

The Office of General Services was meanwhile given a $75,000 grant to study the best way to build a redundant water supply for GlobalFoundries, something state officials said remains a concern.

The Saratoga County Water Authority's new waterline provides the facility with millions of gallons every day, but GlobalFoundries officials want a backup supply and have expressed concern that no adequate solution has been found.

Empire State officials said the moves were taken to ensure that the infrastructure would be completed according to the time line set by GlobalFoundries.

The agencies receiving the grant money can handle the projects without the involvement of the Luther Forest EDC, which was created years ago to oversee development of the technology park.

The EDC, which has completed nearly every other infrastructure piece needed at the technology park, serves primarily as a conduit for state grant money and is not involved in construction efforts.

State officials said they no longer see a need for the EDC to serve as an intermediary.

Under the new arrangement, the grant recipients will be reimbursed by the state as the money is spent.

The Empire State Development board did not specifically address a third infrastructure item - a natural gas line to be built by National Grid within the technology campus - that has also been delayed. However, documents show that construction of the line is to begin in the spring, pending the approval of state regulators.

The grant transfers come as officials continue to talk about future ownership of the park.

Local officials have resisted the idea of the state taking over the property, which straddles the Malta-Stillwater town line. They have expressed concerns that they will lose influence over the campus if the Luther Forest EDC is taken out of the picture.

Michael Relyea, executive director of the Luther Forest EDC, has also said the project should remain under local control, and that delays in state funding are the primary reason the projects are being held up.

Relyea could not be reached for comment on Thursday but said earlier this week that he is still speaking with the state about the ownership issue and is working to facilitate completion of the necessary infrastructure as quickly as possible.

Dennis Mullen, the executive director at Empire State Development, did not specifically address the foreclosure issue at the board's meeting on Thursday but said he has made "significant progress" with local officials with whom he's spoken about the future of the park.

Mullen also said he is confident GlobalFoundries' infrastructure needs will be met in time, ensuring the 1,400 jobs expected to be created at the factory will not be put at risk.

"We've made terrific progress," he said.


Load comments