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Sager says power deal depends on neighbors

April 25, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Work on reopening Hagerstown's former Municipal Electric Light Plant could begin before the end of summer so the plant can be operational by the fall of 1998, but the plant's owners still don't have any confirmed customers, according to one owner.

Officials with Partners Marketing Limited Liability Partnership of Staunton, Va., plan on submitting a bid this year to use the plant to provide wholesale power to the City of Hagerstown after the city's contract with Allegheny Power expires in June, 1998, said co-owner H.D. Thompson.

But city officials aren't ready to make any promises, said Mayor Steven T. Sager.

There will be no agreement with the city to purchase power from the plant unless neighbors support the project, which Sager said he doesn't expect to happen.

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Partners Marketing would work with Power Sources Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., to renovate the former Municipal Electric Light Plant (MELP) to generate electricity and steam by burning sludge, scrap tires and wood.

Neighbors have been concerned about the project in light of odor problems in the past eight months with the city's pellet plant and 1st Urban Fiber's paper recycling plant. The old MELP building and 1st Urban Fiber are both at the intersection of Eastern and Memorial boulevards.

Thompson said he wants to meet with neighbors. "Hopefully, we can get their support."

The next City Council, to be elected on May 20, could pull the plug on the MELP project if members agree not to buy power from the plant, Thompson said.

Partners Marketing and Power Sources officials had hoped to generate electricity to sell to the city and steam to Washington County Hospital and 1st Urban Fiber.

City Light Manager Terry Weaver said the city will advertise for wholesale power bids around June with a decision expected in late fall or early winter.

Weaver said he prefers the city buy power from a single source.

MELP would not be able to generate enough power for the entire city, but there's the possibility a contractual clause could be worked out, allowing the city to buy some power once the plant is on line, Weaver said.

This will be the first time the city has been able to solicit bids for the best wholesale power price thanks to deregulation, he said.

Ideally, Thompson said he wants MELP to be ready by June 1998 when the city's power contract expires, but that isn't realistic.

Thompson said up to $25 million in renovations need to be done to the plant, including installing pollution control equipment.

Once the plant is back on line, it would employ at least 25 people, Thompson said.

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