Company behind now-nixed STAR Campus data center sued

Issue 4_Data_Center_whiteclay_00002
Kirk Smith/THE REVIEW
TDC had planned to build their Newark facility on 43 acres at STAR campus before the university terminated their lease in July.

BY , MANAGING NEWS EDITOR
AND , NEWS ASSIGNMENT EDITOR

While the embattled The Data Centers LLC (TDC) fights off a new legal challenge, the university is searching for new––and less controversial––tenants.

TDC’s troubles did not end in July when the university terminated its lease with the firm. TDC has recently been brought under a joint legal challenge by Constructure Management Inc. and Duffield Associates.

The two firms allege that TDC has failed to make payment for construction and engineering service costs that total $725,751.91 in the case of Constructure and $619,125.19 in the case of Duffield.

The firms are also seeking compensation for “pre and post judgement interest, costs and attorney fees,” according to court documents.

Both Duffield and Constructure allege they demanded TDC fulfill their obligations on the delinquent payments, but TDC, nonetheless, failed to make payment.

TDC and Duffield declined to comment on the case, and Constructure did not respond to requests for comment.

This isn’t the first time TDC has found itself embroiled in controversy. The firm became a source of conflict between the university and town residents spawning the formation of Newark Residents Against the Power Plant.

The grass roots organization protested TDC’s planned use of a power generation facility that would have been placed on site. The protests sparked debate that occurred everywhere from the Newark Town Council to Faculty Senate.

The lease was ultimately terminated after the university determined that TDC’s plans for the site were “inconsistent with the university’s values.”

Constructure and Duffield are not the only entities that lost significant cash amounts from the cancellation of the power plant project. The City of Newark, according to a Delaware Online report, has spent in excess of $577,000 in legal consultation fees in relation to the failed project.

Amy Roe, who emerged as one of the central figures in the Newark residents’ resistance to TDC’s project, said the essential thing that citizens want from the university is honesty regarding the future plans for the site.

“Our concern has always been with the power plant, not so much the data center,” Roe said. “If they want to do anything on the campus here, we’d ask that they engage the community from the start about the concept of what fits in the community.”

Roe said the university has already made that type of commitment to the Newark community and needs to adhere to it. Roe said the large legal expenditures for Newark are also a result of dishonesty on the part of the city government from the start of its involvement with TDC.

She said if the city had gone about that relationship more carefully––and had been more transparent with the public––they would not have needed so much extra legal protection when the plans fell through.

Of the lawsuits, Roe said it casts even more doubt about whether or not TDC was ever truly ready to proceed with the power plant project, particularly after documents surfaced thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from Newark Residents Against the Power Plant.

Those documents show TDC recently told officials from Cecil County, Md., who are now looking at a power plant project, that such a project would cost $350 million, whereas Newark was told a price of between $1.2 and $1.5 billion, Roe said.

Asked whether the university, like Duffield and Constructure, had encountered any problems receiving payment from TDC, university spokesperson Donna O’Brien stated in an email message that the university declined to comment on the matter due to the nature of private business arrangements.

The university has, however, moved on after TDC plans were thrown asunder this summer.

O’Brien said there is currently no plan to locate a data center at STAR Campus, and any proposal that is considered would be subject to consultation and a due diligence process.

O’Brien did not comment on whether Newark Residents, The Sierra Club or Newark Residents Against the Power Plant would be involved in any renewed data center plans.

While O’Brien emphasized that no plans regarding bringing a data center to campus were in motion, she did not rule out the idea entirely.

“If technology develops sufficiently to enable a data center to operate within UD’s environmental targets, then we would consider the proposal as we would any other,” O’Brien said.

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