MASON COUNTY — The Mason County Commission was recently updated on Appalachian Electric Power’s (AEP) Philip Sporn Plant in New Haven which is set to cease operations on Jan. 1, 2015.
Steve Stewart of AEP spoke at the most recent commission meeting, updating Commissioners Rick Handley, Miles Epling and Tracy Doolittle on the company’s plans for what has become a type of landmark in Mason County.
Stewart said AEP has filed a petition with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia to purchase some power generation in West Virginia owned by Ohio Power at the John Amos Plant and Mitchell Plant, as well as the Dresden Plant which is powered by natural gas. Stewart said by purchasing this power, it will help replace what will go offline when Sporn goes dark.
“This will make us owners, not renters,” Stewart said.
As for employees at Sporn, Stewart said the plan is to offer retirement plans to those who are eligible or shift employees to other plants.
Stewart said in terms of the site itself, AEP simply doesn’t know what it is going to do with it and likely won’t do anything with the property for awhile.
Stewart said he’s often asked why AEP didn’t retrofit and update the Sporn plant with new, more environmentally friendly equipment such as the “scrubbers” installed at other facilities. He said this option was looked at but would’ve cost an estimated $400 to $500 million to do update an already aging plant.
Stewart said the PSC has also requested a vegetation mitigation plan from AEP and the company hopes to eventually be on a four-year maintenance cycle. Right now, the plan is basically to respond “as needed.” AEP spends $30 million on tree trimming annually in West Virginia.
In other commission news:
County Administrator John Gerlach updated commissioners on the remodel of the building formerly known as the Point Pleasant Hardware building. Gerlach said a representative from the office of West Virginia State Fire Marshal looked at the building and said the stairs had to be extended to go all the way to the third floor to provide adequate fire escapes. Also, these stairs needed to be enclosed in fire-rated material. Gerlach said it wasn’t known at this time what this latest addition to the project would cost.
The project for interior remodeling currently has an estimated cost of $750,000. Gerlach said bids should go out possibly in March or April with construction to begin in the summer and completed by the end of the year. The first floor of the building will be the new home of the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. There is a third floor apartment already in the building and it’s a possibility the commission might rent the apartment to a tenant for extra revenue.
Gerlach also reported he’d met with officials in Mason about the historic Lewis home. The plan is to get the front of the house dismantled and this facade placed on a model of the home at the W.Va. State Farm Museum where period artifacts will also be displayed. The rest of the home will be torn down because it’s too dilapidated and aged to be moved. The town of Mason will continue to maintain the park where the home sits - this property is owned by the county.
County Clerk Diana Cromley said she’d recently attended a Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority meeting and recommended the commission continue to apply for funds from the organization. Cromley suggested one project that could be eligible for funding is the installation of a sprinkler system at the courthouse - currently, there is none. Gerlach also said a portion of the roof needs repaired. After a recent rain the roof leaked inside the old jail but it did not leak above the Circuit Clerk’s records room where repairs had taken place late last year.
Handley reported a representative from Rep. Nick J. Rahall’s office will meet with the commission from 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. on Feb. 12 to discuss various needs around the county - one of these being, the completion of U.S. 35.
Doolittle was appointed as the commission’s representative to the Polymar Alliance Zone.
In addition to Handley, Epling, Doolittle, Gerlach, Cromley and Stewart, also attending the meeting were Jack Fowler of the Point Pleasant River Museum, Jason Sims and Darby Dennis, students at Marshall University’s Mid-Ohio Valley Center.