ESCANABA – The Escanaba City Council took steps Thursday night to dispose of the Escanaba Power Plant if a sale to Escanaba Green Energy is not completed. It includes a referendum on May 6 to allow the disposal of the plant.
It needs to be submitted to the county clerk by next Tuesday to be on the ballot.
Electric Superintendent Mike Furmanski says the city may have to dispose of the plant if it does not sell and the Midcontinental Independent System Operator (MISO) no longer wants to keep the Escanaba plant on the grid.
Being able to dispose of the plant quickly rather than wait for a ballot proposal would save the city money.
“If we have voter approval to retire the plant, when MISO gives us a 90 day notice that the SSR is going to expire we can then file an Attachment Y to retire the plant immediately,” Furmanski said. “We would still be reducing staff and still be operating at $125,000 a month but the big difference would be doing it immediately instead of waiting three to six months for a total cost to the city of $375,000 to $750,000.”
Voters have allowed for the sale of the plant but not the disposal of the plant. A referendum is required by city charter.
Escanaba Mayor Marc Tall says the number option remains selling the power plant.
“The first choice continues to be to sell the plant,” he said, “but we are looking at another option to protect all of us as ratepayers to the utility as well as owners of the utility. This gives us more control. A stronger position.”
City Councilman Ralph Blasier summed it up this way.
“If we can sell it, we will sell it. As long as MISO pays us to run it, we’ll do that. But if we don’t sell it and MISO doesn’t pay us then we are caught between a rock and a hard place. If we don’t have permission to retire it, we’re screwed. So, we are just asking for permission to retire it if we don’t sell it and MISO doesn’t pay us,” Blasier said.
Escanaba Green Energy has been attempting to purchase the plant from more than a year and a half. The company says it expects funds from a Spanish lender to be available next week.
If the plant sells before May 6, there would be no need for the referendum.
Tall read the language of the ballot proposal to the council:
“In addition to authority granted to the city council to sell the power plant for continued plant operations, shall the city council be authorized to dispose of the power plant equipment and assets including up to 40 acres of real property where said assets are located.”