The city has terminated its contract with a Golden solar installer for failing to finish a project at the Durango Community Recreation Center. City Manager Ron LeBlanc said the city will find a local contractor within two weeks to finish the project.
An official with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs confirmed the school ran into similar problems with the company, Novan Solar, which it selected to install a solar thermal system at the campus recreation center.
The city has paid about $142,000 of the $225,000 cost allocated to install the 64 panels. The panels are in place on the roof but not connected to the pumps downstairs. When connected, the panels will heat the facility’s pool water to reduce the amount of natural gas used at the rec center to heat the water.
“I want it to be right. I want the residents of this city to see that they get their project,” said LeBlanc. “If it takes $83,000 to get them hooked up, then we’ll use all of it.”
He said he knew Novan had a stellar reputation when the city selected it. Founded in the late 1970s in Boulder, it was one of the country’s first major solar installers. At one point, it was the largest in the state and among the top five in the country. Local solar installer John Shaw said Novan previously had a good name in the green energy community.
However, Novan was sold in 2007, and Jacob Futro became the new chief executive officer. After the sale, LeBlanc said problems became apparent in the firm’s efforts to satisfy specifications of the contract.
Futro came to Novan after resigning as a vice president of administration at network marketing and distributing company U.S. Medsys, after federal investigations into a large-scale penny stock and money-laundering scheme at the company. Last year, former president of U.S. Medsys and Jacob Futro’s father, Peter Futro, received seven years in federal prison for his role in the scandal, which allegedly cost investors $15 million.
LeBlanc said he was told the young executive didn’t have the line of credit to purchase the materials needed for projects already booked, including the Durango project. Phone calls to Futro’s home and office did not reach voice mail prompts this week or last.
Novan’s attorney, Steven C. Hoth, based in Denver, declined to comment on the matter, but he said Wednesday, he had not heard the contract with Durango had been terminated.
Kelli Jaycox, manager of Durango’s rec center, said she was surprised when she first met Jacob Futro face-to-face.
“He looked really young. A lot younger than I was expecting,” she said.
The hookup delay isn’t the only problem the city has had with the panels. California solar panel manufacturer Heliodyne repaired an “aesthetic defect” in all of the 64 panels. Alligator clips were installed on the interior panel framing, and LeBlanc said he’s satisfied with Heliodyne’s response to the problem.
“Heliodyne is upset with Novan,” said LeBlanc. “But they really want to make good on this project.”
A spokesman for Heliodyne confirmed the company performed the repairs and said the panels were still under the manufacturer’s 10-year warranty.
LeBlanc took time at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to brief the council on the rec center solar-panel issue. He was asked by Councilor Doug Lyon whether the panels were “defective.” LeBlanc stressed they were “faulty.”
Councilors Michael Rendon and Christina Thompson both thought it was unfortunate this particular project had stalled.
“We didn’t want people to think that thermal solar is usually this complicated or expensive,” said Thompson.