Power plant parts may be shipped across world

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Deconstruction is underway at the power plant on 15th Street in Jasper. The company deconstructing the plant anticipates that 90 percent of the building’s material will be reused or recycled.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — The speedy demolition of the Hoosier Desk building earlier this summer has left a hole near the intersections of Third and Main streets. Across town, another structure with a storied history is tumbling down at a much slower rate.

Target Contractors LLC, of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, brought the Hoosier Desk building down rapidly to keep the future Thyen-Clark Cultural Center’s construction timeline on schedule. But the 15th Street power plant is being methodically taken apart piece by piece. It will live on after parts are salvaged and possibly shipped to buyers across the world.

Deconstruction — not demolition — of the structure began in July and will continue through the start of winter. The building will eventually be razed, the ground it rests on seeded, and the land will become a large, grassy area that will remain under the city utilities’ ownership. There are no plans for the plot of land’s future.

Green Earth Technologies Group LLC, of Wilmington, Delaware, paid the city $70,000 to complete the salvage work. City Utilities Manager Bud Hauersperger said the demo of the Hoosier Desk building was quicker because workers simply knocked down and hauled off the rubble while salvaging fewer parts than what are being saved at the power plant. Now, Green Earth Technologies is moving through the power plant building and working to get a return on their investment.

“We have a tremendous response from farmers, architects, as well as collectors of old memorabilia for most of the items slated for repurposing,” a Green Earth spokeswoman said in an email. She said the company plans to salvage compressors, generators, 60 percent of the beams, electronic switches, metal grading, miscellaneous electronic equipment and the front façade of the building.

Rubble from the Hoosier Desk factory is being used as backfill.

Hauersperger said Green Earth is shipping “old time” porcelain lighting fixtures from the power plant facility to Cracker Barrel restaurants, for example. Different metals are being sold to recycling companies. Some of the copper might go to the United States Mint in Philadelphia and could be used to make pennies. A lot of the steel will be shipped to an Evansville warehouse.

The company is also in conversations with farmers and other locals regarding their interest in the facility’s steel and large bins formerly used to store coal, and the plant’s generator and steam turbine could be shipped overseas. One side of the building has 1950s- and 1960s-style, coral-colored panels that are in high demand that could be incorporated into a house. Even the building’s cinder blocks are valuable.

Hauersperger said the fact that the city would receive money as opposed to dishing out dollars to a contractor to demolish the site was a factor in opting to go with the deconstruction.

“And it’s kind of nice to know that it’s not all going to be just landfilled or scrapped,” he added.

“Our goal is to salvage at least 90 percent of the material for reuse and recycling,” the Green Earth spokeswoman said.

While Target Contractors had a strict, quick time frame to bring down the Hoosier Desk Building, Green Earth Technology has a more lax schedule with their deconstruction because there currently aren’t any plans for the property after the power plant is gone.

Hauersperger explained that even though the building has not been in use for years, it generated insurance expenses and the city utility maintained it in case a purchaser did want to use it for power generation. The facility has not regularly provided electricity to the city for about a decade.

The power plant became a source for controversy in 2010 when the city considered leasing the building to Atlanta-based Twisted Oak Corp. to create Jasper Clean Energy, a biomass plant. The city did eventually lease the building to Twisted Oak, but the project never came to fruition.

“We felt like we did out diligence on trying to find somebody to use it for some other purpose,” Hauersperger said. “But we exhausted that, so we just felt like it was time.”

Unforeseen issues, such as uncovering pipes loaded with ash, have slowed the project, but as of now, the team of about a half-dozen crew members is still on schedule to wrap up in the coming months. Hauersperger added that the city will work with Green Earth if they need additional time as long as the project is making progress.

The power plant became a source for controversy in 2010 when the city considered leasing the building to Atlanta-based Twisted Oak Corp. to create Jasper Clean Energy, a biomass plant. The city did eventually lease the building to Twisted Oak, but the project never came to fruition. Twisted Oak terminated its lease in June 2014.

At the time, a group of citizens formed Healthy Dubois County and opposed the project, taking their opposition to court through a lawsuit regarding Indiana’s public access law, better known as the Open Door Law. Legal proceedings ended in January 2014. Green Earth Technologies was awarded the deconstruction bid in May 2018.




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