ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — Following a week delay in fulfilling its obligation for a half billion dollars for Buffalo’s Solar City project, a little known but powerful, state board gave its approval Wednesday afternoon.
It means any work stoppage, like what the project experienced earlier this year, will be avoided — at least for now. And it means the project — and its subsequent funding — will face stronger scrutiny, after Wednesday’s measure was moved along with amendments.
The Public Authorities Control Board placed additional measures on the approval of the funds for some of the entities involved — like the not-for-profit Fort Schuyler Corp. — in wiring money to general contractors like Ciminelli and Quackenbush. The Assembly requested the state provide regular updates on payment progress and additional monitoring on future funding.
They also want to know how the money is spent on specific work at the site — monitoring the state says is already underway.
Others in attendance at the meeting asked about what penalties Solar City would encounter if it failed to meet job numbers that were promised last year when it received the lion’s share of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion.
According to representatives from the state’s Empire Development Corp., contractors at the site submit monthly reports for construction to Fort Schuyler, which reviews and submits the work to the ESD.The ESD — which has officials on site reviewing the work — reviews the invoices and submits them to the state’s Division of the Budget. The DOB then releases the money for payment once it’s approved by the Public Authorities Control Board.
Solar City must create 1,460 within its first year of operation, including a minimum of 500 jobs at the plant on South Park Avenue. They must create 2,000 jobs across New York state in the first five years, and, eventually, a total of 5,000 jobs across the state.
If Solar City fails to meet those agreements, they will be ordered to pay a penalty of more than 41 million dollars every year they fall short.
The added scrutiny for payments comes about a month after the Cuomo administration was slapped with a subpoena by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who requested information on Solar City and other projects associated with the Buffalo Billion.
The Public Authorities Control Board last week removed the Solar City funding item from its agenda, raising concerns from contractors and unions doing the work locally that another work stoppage could be on the horizon.
More than 200 workers were temporarily laid off after the state failed to pay general contractors, which the state said was nothing more than a clerical oversight.