Project questions linger regarding power plant

Herald file photo by Sarah Ann Jump
Deconstruction was underway at the power plant on 15th Street in Jasper in September 2018.


JASPER — More than a year after the deconstruction of Jasper’s old power plant was scheduled to be finished, project questions still linger.

Jasper Municipal Utilities has retained an outside attorney to persuade Green Earth Technologies, the contractor, to supply documentation of asbestos testing results and trucking manifests of the items that were removed from the 15th Street location.

Other site work items also persist.

“From a status perspective, as you know, we’ve been working with outside counsel,” City Attorney Renee Kabrick said at Monday evening’s Jasper Utility Service Board meeting. “We got to the point where we’d requested, on numerous occasions, information from Green Earth Technologies, and we’re getting bits and pieces of information. But never a full response to what we’re requesting.”

Taft law firm of Indianapolis has sent a letter to the Wilmington, Delaware, company detailing the above issues. A letter of concern will also be submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in the near future, which will address the city’s concerns with how Green Earth conducted the power plant project and its closeout.

The company paid the utilities $70,000 to salvage the former power plant. In early July 2018, Green Earth began methodically taking apart the plant piece by piece. According to Herald archives, after they were salvaged, some of the parts were to be repurposed and possibly shipped to buyers around the world.

Compressors, generators, 60% of the beams, electronic switches, metal grading, miscellaneous electronic equipment as well as the front façade of the building were all planned to be salvaged.

The project was originally set to end in early 2019. General Manager of Utilities Bud Hauersperger explained, however, that the city utilities understood an extension would be necessary to complete the final seeding and grading of the grounds.

“But it lasted a lot longer than that due to all kinds of other issues,” Hauersperger said. “Mostly weather issues seem to be the main reason for extending the time frame. It wasn’t real critical from our standpoint, the timeframe, because we didn’t really have a future use selected for that property.”

Though work did eventually get rolling, today, it still isn’t complete. Site issues that were part of the project’s scope still need addressing.

“We still have some final filling, and leveling and reseeding of the site,” Hauersperger said. Erosion and settling has caused sinkholes and the formation of low areas that can pool with water.

Hauersperger shared at Monday night’s meeting that he has spoken with excavating contractors about the remaining work to acquire pricing estimates for what it would cost the utilities to clean up the site. This will be used to itemize damages.

Once that information is collected, utility leadership will be in a position to decide whether it makes sense to go forward and try to file a claim against Green Earth, or use the remaining escrow funds to foot the bill.

When it comes to the documentation the city utilities are seeking, Hauersperger said the information being requested is for the utilities’ records. Hauersperger believes it’s important that the city has the information available just in case someone asks where hazardous materials wound up after leaving the site.

“We’re trying to put as much pressure as possible to get that documentation,” Hauersperger said.

The old 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.

The future of the property has not been determined.

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