SARATOGA SPRINGS u The head of the Luther Forest Technology Campus said Thursday that a lack of state funding - and not mismanagement at the local level - is to blame for construction delays at the budding technology campus.
Michael Relyea, the technology park's executive director, said two of the three outstanding infrastructure projects that need to be finished are being held up because no funding has been afforded to get the work done.
GlobalFoundries officials recently alerted the state that three critical pieces of infrastructure are behind schedule and putting at risk an on-time startup of the $4.6 billion computer chip factory being built at the tech park.
The concerns prompted the Empire Development Corp., the state's economic development arm, to move late last week to try wresting control of the park from the local group.
But two of the three items - a $10 million natural gas line and a $7 million access road - are only being held up because there is no money to do the work, Relyea said. Concerns about the lack of funding were expressed as early as July 2009, he said.
"We only have the land," Relyea said in an afternoon press conference at the
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. "We do not have the assets to put together infrastructure."
If money were awarded, the gas line could be finished by December 2011, and the road could be finished by the spring of 2012, according to Luther Forest projections.
GlobalFoundries wants to install tools next June, and to begin full-volume production in early 2013.
A third infrastructure element that remains unfinished, a secondary water supply, remains an open issue Relyea acknowledged.
"There is no final answer to that," he said.
GlobalFoundries is in line to get at least 2 million gallons of water a day from the new $67 million waterline built by the Saratoga County Water Authority, but also wants a second, redundant water supply.
A private water supply company, Saratoga Water Services, could provide water but Relyea said officials are still exploring their options.
The company is already providing up to 100,000 gallons of water a day to the construction site, and could produce as much as 4 million gallons a day from its aquifers if the right infrastructure were installed, owner Alexander Mackay said.
"We believe we have more than adequate supply, but we've been asking for a contract to justify the money," he said.
Mackay said he has been asking for specific needs for the past 18 months to no avail, and that Luther Forest has had "little to no communication" with the company.
The infrastructure delays are the primary reason Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm, moved on Friday to foreclose on the 1,400 acre tech park, which straddles the Malta-Stillwater town line.
The nonprofit in charge of installing infrastructure at the park, the Luther Forest Technology Park Economic Development Corp., has received $9 million in state loans this year, and the state has called two notes worth up to $1.75 million.
State officials have acknowledged that they could forgive the loans or extend the repayment deadlines, and that the move is merely being used as a way to overtake the local group.
The project needs new leadership in order to protect the state's investment in the park, Dennis Mullen, the group's chairman has said. The state has invested $80 million in infrastructure at the park, and given GlobalFoundries a $1.2 billion incentive package.
Relyea said the Luther Forest team has the money to pay off the loans, but that clearing the debt won't necessarily solve the issues that have been raised by state officials or settle the issue of who should be in control.
The state could foreclose on other loans that remain outstanding and cannot be repaid, or take the property through eminent domain, Relyea said.
"It's not just as simple as paying the money because that doesn't answer the control question," Relyea said.
Relyea said the loans were not immediately repaid because state officials had told them they would not foreclose on the site despite the non-payment.
A call to Empire State Development for response to Relyea's comments elicited nothing
but a one-sentence statement that said the organization "continues to work towards ensuring the success and continuity of the GlobalFoundries project."
In an interview earlier this week, Mullen said the organization will go "as far as we have to" to make sure the deadlines are met.
Whatever led officials to this point, Relyea said he still believes the Luther Forest group should remain in charge.
"We're the experts on this," he said. "We know how to get this done."
Local officials have built relationships with Luther Forest leaders going back more than a decade, and state ownership could put at risk tax agreements that have been forged with local towns, school districts and Saratoga County, he said.
"I want to make sure we don't throw out 10 years of planning just to do something different," said Relyea, who rebuffed a demand from state officials to resign last week.
Saratoga County officials have been working with Luther Forest leaders to come to some kind of an agreement with the state this week, but say nothing has been settled. Mullen is expected to come to the area next week, however, and discussions remain ongoing.
Relyea said a resolution needs to be found as soon as possible, but that he would not move so fast that it would jeopardize the future of the park.
"The important thing is not getting this done as quickly as possible, but getting it done right," he said.