Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Contributed Photo

A model of the Fuhrlander FL 600, which is supposed to be erected on the SCCC campus.

The other SCCC windmill is idled

By Dan Hust
LOCH SHELDRAKE — February 5, 2010 — Sullivan County Community College’s showpiece windmill – an experimental vertical wind turbine at the Liberty entrance – is nearing completion.
The same cannot be said for the other SCCC windmill project: a traditional propeller-like wind turbine slated for the back side of its Loch Sheldrake campus.
The erection of the 246-foot-tall windmill is on hold until SCCC settles its suit against Atlantic Energy Solutions (AES), the Saratoga Springs-based firm tasked with overseeing the windmill’s purchase and construction.
The college is seeking $2.4 million from AES – $1.5 million of which it says are monies sent to AES to purchase the windmill, which never happened.
“We discovered that he hadn’t, in truth, ordered anything,” SCCC Board Chair Phyllis Coombe said this week.
She was referring to Timothy Brock, CEO of AES.
In fact, according to court documents, SCCC Vice President of Administrative Services Elizabeth Kubenik alleged that Brock had told her in late 2008 that his company was having “cash flow problems” and that he had used the $1.5 million meant for the windmill instead to “keep my company afloat.” Kubenik told the court that Brock had promised to repay the funds when “additional financing” came through.
But those same documents indicate college officials were told by AES’ project manager, Tim Casabonne, that in October of 2008 a $10 million line of credit would be made available to AES. Kubenik said she never heard another word about it.
Brock did not return phone calls seeking comment, and AES’ attorney, Joseph Berger, declined to comment.
Last month, the college won one round of the court battle when it got Acting Supreme Court Justice Mark Meddaugh to agree that AES failed to fully answer SCCC’s demand for documents, including invoices, detailing how AES spent (or didn’t spend) the more than $2 million SCCC has given it since first entering into an agreement with AES three years ago.
A conference is scheduled for February 17 to go over the rest of the contested issues. Court documents show that SCCC is seeking not just to recoup the $1.5 million it alleges AES used to shore itself up but also to recoup $440,000 in lost energy savings due to the delay (the agreement with AES guaranteed more than $400,000 a year in energy savings). The college is also seeking $500,000 in punitive damages, plus reimbursement of legal fees. And it wants a near-$1.5 million performance bond from AES as security if the windmill is not purchased or built. All monies involved are from a private source, not public.
For its part, AES claims in court documents that it has used the money appropriately and that all existing invoices and related documents have been provided to SCCC.
“No funds concerning this project are currently being held” by AES, Berger said in an affidavit to the court.
He acknowledged that the windmill remains unpurchased but said it’s because SCCC doesn’t yet have all the permits required to erect the windmill. (SCCC officials said they’ve got general approval from the Fallsburg Planning Board to proceed but are waiting on the conclusion of this litigation before obtaining specific permits). As a result, AES “cannot obtain a firm quote to determine if the final cost will exceed the budgeted price,” Berger told the court. “It is therefore premature to require security for an unknown amount of money.”
The company that’s building the prototype vertical wind turbine at the front of the college – ETC – is unrelated to AES and is not involved in litigation with the college. ETC is simply leasing the land from the college and will retain ownership rights to the windmill.
However, both windmills were planned to be highly visible educational components of the college’s green technologies push. While a green tech program has been started at SCCC, its CAST (Center for Advanced Sciences and Technologies) Building and nearby Green Tech Park have not gotten off the drawing boards yet due to a lack of funding.
This litigation with AES also threatens to sideline the windmill project, though Coombe remains hopeful.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” she admitted, “but it does not mean this project is dead.”
She pointed out that AES satisfactorily completed hooking up the college’s geothermal plant to the field house, even though that project was delayed due to excessively high bids.
“And our belief is he [Brock] certainly had no nefarious purposes when he went into this,” she added.
Whether or not the college continues to work with AES to build the windmill, however, remains to be seen.
“My inclination is probably not,” said Coombe. “But that would be a board decision.”

top of page  |  home  |  archives