July 2, 2014
By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer
JASPER — Options are being researched for the city’s former power plant on East 15th Street near the Patoka River.
The Jasper Utility Service Board’s electric committee decided this morning it will propose sending notice to gauge if any group is interested in utilizing the plant. The committee also decided to explore the steps necessary should the plant be dismantled.
The full utility service board must agree to those ideas, which it will consider at its next meeting July 21.
“Since the start of negotiations with Twisted Oak, a lot has happened in the power industry,” committee member Wayne Schuetter said at this morning’s meeting. “(The plant) still has potential as an asset. What that is, I’m not sure.”
Twisted Oak is the Atlanta-based organization that had a lease for the plant. Twister Oak planned to convert the power plant into a biomass plant that burned natural gas and miscanthus grass.
The plan drew criticism from those concerned about the negative impact the center could have on health. Several of those in objection formed Healthy Dubois County. The day before the lease was approved in August 2011, Healthy Dubois County filed a lawsuit against the Jasper Common Council and Jasper Utility Service Board, citing what Healthy Dubois County considered a violation of the Open Door Law with several executive sessions leading up to the decision to approve the lease.
The lawsuit lasted more than a year and included a successful appeal for Healthy Dubois County to the Indiana Court of Appeals. The lawsuit, which cost the city at least $700,000, was mutually dismissed in January.
Twisted Oak ultimately terminated its lease, effective June 20, saying the project was no longer profitable financially. The termination of the lease brought the electric committee to this morning’s meeting with questions about the power plant’s future.
The committee determined the notice for letters of interest this time around will be more broad, reaching out to power sources as well as other entities, such as research and development companies.
“We (can) put it out there that we have this facility that’s been well-maintained that could be used for that, not just for production of power,” Schuetter said.
Board member Alex Emmons agreed. “We don’t want to limit ourselves,” he said.
General Utilities Manager Bud Hauersperger said research needs to be done to determine the environmental impact for dismantling the plant. That information, he said, would help the utility service board in its future decisions for the plant as well as assist any company interested in utilizing the plant. The committee agreed.
Members of Healthy Dubois County attended this morning’s meeting. After the meeting, organization member Rock Emmert handed The Herald a written statement.
“Our leaders are above all entrusted to protect the public’s health,” he wrote. “Responsible, critical thinking requires comprehensive analysis, which includes well-established health risks. Citizens desire full disclosure, especially when they are footing the bill and bearing the health costs. HDC will continue to address the health hazards of any proposal at this site that will increase our area’s already high cancer and asthma rates.”
The utility service board will hear the recommendations at its July 21 meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of City Hall, 610 Main St.
Contact Candy Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.