The frame of Monolith Solar's new headquarters in Vista Technology Campus in Slingerlands. Diego Cagara / Spotlight Newspapers
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SLINGERLANDS — Monolith Solar has remained silent on why it furloughed 58 workers last Wednesday and stopped construction on its $4.9 million headquarters the week prior.
Efforts to contact both Monolith Solar and its Albany-based building contractor, BBL, have been fruitless; neither has responded to requests for interview. However, the former sent an official statement via email on Sept. 26 in which the temporary furloughing of the workers and construction halt are “part of a comprehensive strategy to restructure and stabilize our business operations.”
Confirming that it intends to complete construction eventually although the timeframe is uncertain, it is “working closely with all of our business partners and briefing them on our plans. The solar energy industry is a unique and challenging marketplace, and in this intense-growth area sometimes corrective actions is needed — this is one of those instances.”
Monolith Solar is a solar panel installation company which pushes for solar energy and going green both in the Capital District and throughout the state. However, it’s been embroiled in financial issues of late, the most recent being CEO Mike Hickey’s departure in early September after just one year in office. It also dealt with two recent lawsuits regarding unpaid bills with law firm Couch White and solar product distributor CED Greentech.
The current 26,000-square-foot construction site stands with only a few metallic structures up on Vista Boulevard at the Vista Technology Campus, a stone’s throw away from ShopRite. Onsite work began in May and was financed by Pioneer Bank, with an original target completion date of December.
Robert Leslie, the director of Bethlehem’s Planning Division, revealed that his department was first informed of construction stoppage by BBL two weeks ago but did not receive an explanation, although BBL did tell him that it had been instructed by Monolith Solar to suspend construction. Then, Leslie’s department had a meeting with BBL to discuss “a shutdown procedure because you can’t just leave the site in its current state. You got to make sure all the soil is stabilized in case of heavy rain so it wouldn’t erode out onto the road,” he said.
Even at that meeting, Leslie said that his department was still not given a reason behind the suspended construction and what the site’s future could be like, “We’ve reached out to Monolith Solar several times too and there’s still no information provided for us.” He also said that his department is enforcing that BBL shut down the construction site as a temporary procedure.
Monolith Solar had approached the Planning Board for site-plan approval prior to construction, which it received in March 2015, after desiring to move out of its former Rensselaer location.
Meanwhile, Tim Connolly, executive director of the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency (IDA), also said that Monolith Solar had come to his department for approval and he “thought it was good because it would bring in jobs.”
Monolith Solar expects to get $680,000 in state tax breaks through IDA but it’s unknown if that would be affected given this temporary shutdown.
“But if we don’t have a finished building, that’s not good. There’s just a very sketchy framework of steel there now,” Connolly said. “What everyone wants is to see the completed investment and have an operating business on the boulevard. We’re not getting the benefit of the new building yet, so we’re not giving them the benefits too because they haven’t produced it yet.”
Connolly revealed he was also made aware of the halted construction two weeks ago.
He also said he did not know why construction was suspended but “I certainly wish construction would resume.”
Leslie added, “In my 11 years here, we haven’t seen this kind of situation before. Typically, projects go through from start to finish some take longer than others, but they don’t have a suspended shutdown.”
Despite all this, Leslie maintained that Monolith Solar, as a company, would benefit Bethlehem economically and hoped it eventually moves forward from this setback.
“Green energy is certainly a good thing in our community and as Monolith can represent that, we certainly are looking forward to construction starting again,” Leslie concluded.