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Here's your chance to weigh in on the power plant's future

Alexander Sinn • Aug 14, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The City of Grand Haven will host two town hall-style meetings this week to gather public input regarding the fate of the J.B. Sims power plant on Harbor Island.

Wednesday’s town hall is from 6-7:30 p.m., while Thursday’s meeting will run 3-4:30 p.m. Both will be at the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave.

Board of Light & Power customers will have a chance to weigh in on questions posed by the Grand Haven City Council, with a moderator to lead the discussion and a chance for smartphone users to submit instant feedback through an app. 

“Most people that I talk to say they like being part of the process,” Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “We want the people of Grand Haven to have options.” 

BLP has been a reliable power source for residents, McCaleb said, and customers are typically happy with the service. Power outages are rare and service restorations never take long, she added. 

“People take a lot of pride in that, and they have a degree of comfort in knowing that they provide their own supply,” the mayor said. 

In February, the BLP proposed shutting down the coal-fired plant by 2020, after reports showed many of its components had reached the end of their useful life.

Upgrades are needed for the facility’s turbine, boiler, pollution controls, electrical and auxiliary equipment, and other environmental systems. Fixes would require $15.5 million investment to keep the plant running at its current level, officials have said.

BLP trustees noted the annual cost to continue the Sims plant operation would be more than the combined cost of purchasing power from the power grid and operating a local natural gas generating facility.

The plant was turned back on in June after a planned three-month spring maintenance shutdown, and will go offline again this fall for maintenance. The three-months-on, three-months-off schedule would continue through June 1, 2020, if the plant is shut down permanently.

One of the issues should the plant close is how the city will provide heat for its downtown snowmelt system. Closing the plant in 2020 means there’s not much time to consider the alternatives, McCaleb said.

“A five-year window became a two-year window, and that’s a very short amount of time to make these very important decisions,” she said.

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