Layoffs Cost 280 Jobs, Raise More Questions About Secretive Project

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RENO, NV - For the last month as the lobbying among the states being considered for Tesla Motors much-anticipated battery gigaplant reached a fever pitch in public and behind closed doors, heavy equipment operators were also working long hours clearing a site beyond a security gate in a section of the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center known as Eagle Valley.

"Twelve-hour shifts, 20-minute, 30-minute breaks, one break," says heavy equipment operator Kody Kleckner. "We pushed as hard as we could."

But the seven-day, 84-hour work-weeks came with promises.

"The promises were we'd have Three to five years of work on the job," says Thon Alsdorf.

Plus, the pay was great and many came running

"I was told 'go ahead and quit your job, says John Oliveira who was making $9.50 an hour changing oil at the time. "So I went and took my drug test and got my hard hat the same day."

All that feverish activity only increased speculation about what was being built here.

The men heard the rumors but say they never knew and still don't. If they did they couldn't tell. Like high level state officials in the hunt for the battery factory, they're under nondisclosure agreements.

Whatever it was, work came to a sudden halt following a high level site inspection last Thursday.

"No advance notice. They didn't tell us what it was about," says Alsdorf.. "We called them that night. They told us to show back up at 7 o'clock in the morning here at the office. When we showed up we were turned away at the gate."

And today viewed from a hilltop a mile or so away, there was little activity at what is officially known only as Project Tiger.

An informed source tells us after the removal of 3 million cubic yards of earth, leveling an area which could accommodate a 5 million square foot building, the project has reached a natural halting point.

What it might mean to the state's efforts to land the battery factory, if that was going on here, isn't known.

What is known is that the promise of long term employment has suddenly disappeared for men with real life obligations.

"I got a mortgage, I've got a wife. I've got kids, bills, more bills than you can imagine," says Kleckner. "I was told to quit my job. My wife quit her job and now we're just out of luck."