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May 26, 2013

FRANKLIN: Working to keep jobs here

I vividly remember the picket line outside the city building in August 2011, where about 100 people stood against accepting Duke’s proposal to close the Logansport Municipal Utilities plant and stood for keeping local jobs, which prompted the Utility Service Board to keep looking at options.

A petition drive netted about 1,000 signatures and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 62 stood proud for our local workers. It was a clear message that we did not want to lose our local jobs and that we wanted to keep as much local control of our power generation plant as we could.

We couldn’t stand idle. We have already tried that approach and the results have been damaging to our economic success. Duke Energy has been a very good, trusted and reliable partner. Discontinuing the production of electricity and eliminating 35 good-paying jobs does not match up with the long-term needs and desires of our community. We saw coal prices rise from $42 a ton to $123 per ton and, subsequently, saw our

in-home price for electricity rise. In fact, unfortunately, we have among the highest cost of electricity in the northern half of the state. For as little as I have had to with that, I still feel the need to say, we as city, are sorry and we are working on a remedy.

I am proud to say, however, we have made substantial progress since the days of the picket line. We have earmarked $1.5 million toward the creation of a refuse-derived fuel plant to generate “green energy.” The entire $566 million project will be funded by private investment and none of it will be government money. Please allow me to go on the record: “The city of Logansport and/or the Logansport Municipal Utilities will have no capital investment whatsoever in the proposed power plant to be developed by Pyrolyzer LLC.” I would also like to point out that all of the $1.5 million development costs incurred in making the new power plant a reality will be reimbursed to the city of Logansport and/or the Logansport Municipal Utilities, according to state law. Bottom line: if we are successful in our negotiations and the new plant is constructed, taxpayer and ratepayer investment will total less than a cost of a piece of bubble gum. Zero!

In order to reverse the trend of being known as having the highest electricity cost, we must take substantial steps toward securing an affordable option for our electricity. Six weeks into taking office, this “green energy” project came across my desk and plans have evolved to a size that can truly turn our city’s economy and work force around.

Not only will our power plant work force double from 35 to 70 jobs once the new plant is operational, we have an initial commitment for an additional $90 million industrial development, with about 110 jobs when at its peak, as a spin-off from the power plant. There are more plans to open industry around the new plant that will work with the by-products of producing this electricity, and that means even more local jobs. Affordable energy will brings jobs to Logansport.

I pledge to all of our citizens that our administration will be as transparent with the plant development process and as helpful as possible to let our people know what requirements are needed for new jobs, what training is needed and when these jobs will become available. All we need are work-ready residents willing to learn the skills needed to make monumental project a true success story for our city.

Ted Franklin is mayor of Logansport. He can be reached at tfranklin@cityoflogansport.org or by calling 574-753-2551.

 

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