Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2019

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$3 million budget hole means Boulder City layoffs likely

Boulder City still has no assurances on a $3 million payment, more than six months late, from an energy firm that planned to build a solar panel facility in Eldorado Valley. Because of the budget gap, possible layoffs of some city employees could be looming.

City Manager Vicki Mayes confirmed Monday that the city would probably have to move forward with its second phase of budget cuts, which would include layoffs of part-time employees and a reduction of non-essential services. She would bring a proposal for cuts to the city council at its next meeting on Oct. 12, she said.

Discussions between SolBio and Advanced Energy Innovations fell through last week, Mayes said. SolBio has explored the possibility of having a third-party like AEI take over the lease.

Those efforts, it seems, have been unsuccessful.

Repeated requests for comment from officials at Advanced Energy Innovations and from David Irwin, president of SolBio, have not been successful. AEI is a seven-person California firm with about $1.3 million in annual revenue, according to its profile on Manta, an online database of business profiles.

SolBio planned to build a $2 billion, 2,200-acre solar panel power plant near Boulder City. It would have been the first project for the company, which is an offshoot of Irwin’s Green Tech Solar, based in British Columbia, according to its website.

Boulder City and SolBio entered into a contract in December 2009, but the company never made its first lease payment, which was due in March. Mayes has cited the recession as the reason for SolBio’s financial problems.

Mayes told the Sun the city might ultimately find SolBio in default on its payment if significant progress can’t be made in the next week.

In that case, the contract would be terminated and the company would have no right to the land, but the $3 million hole in Boulder City’s $22.7 million budget would have to be filled by layoffs, she said.

City Attorney Dave Olsen said the city would try to avoid collecting money through litigation, although it has that option, and opt instead to quickly fill the lease with a new tenant.

If SolBio contested the city terminating the contract, though, Olsen said he would consider filing a lawsuit.

According to the plan detailed by Mayes in August, layoffs of full-time employees would be necessary after Nov. 1 if the $3 million payment wasn't made.

When Mayes proposes her cuts on Oct. 12, the city council would have to approve any specific layoffs for part-time employees by a majority vote.

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