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Council cancels bond election, ends hydro plant project
by Ashley Langston
Feb 16, 2011 | 836 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Center Creek Hydro Plant has been in Parowan for about 50 years, and will now be sold or decommissioned.
The Center Creek Hydro Plant has been in Parowan for about 50 years, and will now be sold or decommissioned.
PAROWAN – The city council voted last Thursday to sell or decommission the Center Creek Hydro Plant, and cease any forward movement on a refurbishing or rebuilding project.

The vote cancelled the council’s January decision to send the plant’s fate to a general obligation bond election in June.

At the Jan. 27 meeting the council was presented with a price tag of $1.7 million for the project. Previously they had said that they believed it to be financially feasible if it would cost $1.25 million or less.

Mayor Don Landes said Thursday that he hated to take something to an election that didn’t make sense financially. There is currently a large segment of Parowan’s population that would like to sell the city’s whole power system and hook up to Rocky Mountain Power, he added.

“This thing has got to make some sense before we take it to the community,” he said.

Von Mellor, electrical department director, said the Center Creek Hydro Plant is a lot of risk for not much energy.

“Financially I just don’t think it’s feasible,” he said.

Landes asked Mellor if he had written a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission explaining that the city would be having a general obligation bond election.

Mellor said he had not yet, because the city had been so back and forth on the issue. The council voted to decommission the plant in January 2010, but decided in July to try to stop that decommissioning while options were explored.

“We’re up against the wall and we need to make a decision one way or another,” Landes said.

Councilor Diane Lister asked if decommissioning the plant would cause the penstock to be removed, because she didn’t want to do anything that could hurt the agricultural community. Landes said he did not know what would happen to the penstock if the plant were decommissioned.

Councilor Dennis Gaede said it was a tough decision for him, as he did not want to see the plant go, but he was absolutely against any cost increases for residents and did not want to add to the city’s debt.

Bob Angello, of the power board, said when the plant was built about 50 years ago it gave the city a small degree of energy independence and was a facility the community could be proud of. Whatever was decided for the plant’s future, he said, the city could take a lot of pride in its history.

Councilor Troy Houston made a motion to sell or decommission the plant, and, if possible upon its decommissioning, to turn it into a museum.

Landes said there are companies that have expressed interest in purchasing the plant.

Lister seconded Houston’s motion, and after some thought, Gaede also voted for the motion.

Councilor Steve Decker voted against the motion, desiring to send the project to a general obligation bond election. He said he felt an election was the most responsible thing to do, and while perhaps in the short term the council made the best financial decision, he wasn’t sure if it would be the best decision in the long run.

“I think this would be wise debt if there is such a thing,” Decker said.

Councilor Mary Halterman was absent from the meeting.

The council also discussed recent frustrations from residents who have septic tanks but still pay a monthly sewer fee because the sewer system runs past their house.

City Attorney Justin Wayment said in researching the problem he discovered that Parowan’s statute is actually more lenient than the state code, which requires residents to connect if there is a sewer line available. Parowan only requires them to connect when their septic system fails.

He said Parowan is in violation by being more lenient that the state code, and most cities have taken the position that residents have 60 days to hook up once sewer is available to them.

“I think 60 days is insane as far as a timeframe,” Decker said, pointing out that many Parowan residents are on fixed incomes and connecting to the sewer system will cost thousands of dollars per home.

Landes agreed that it was a difficult situation.

“We’re going to have some people that this is going to be a real hardship on,” he said.

Decker suggested giving people five years or three years to save up and waiving the fee in the meantime. He acknowledged that the state could come in and force people to hook up sooner than the three or five years. City Manager Shayne Scott pointed out that waiving the fee would seriously affect the budget, and could possibly go against the city’s bond requirements.

The issue is expected to be discussed further at the Feb. 24 council meeting.

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