Millions of dollars in projected maintenance costs for two Cold War-era electrical generators have led Dover City Council Monday night to take those units out of consideration when planning for the city's future electrical needs.
The generators, located at the city's McKee Run power plant on Buttner Lane, were installed in 1962 and are among the oldest pieces of equipment in the plant.
However, those units were an integral part of a complicated agreement between the city and PJM Interconnection LLC to provide electrical power to Dover-area residents through 2018.
PJM runs the electrical grid serving Delaware and 12 additional states, plus the District of Columbia.
Under that agreement, the city buys electrical energy from the regional grid and in turn receives credits for its ability to generate additional energy to put into the grid if needed. However, the city is penalized if that ability is not available.
Currently, PJM pays the city to have those generators ready for use, but maintenance costs on the units soon will exceed those revenues.
"It's not cost effective for us to keep them up," said Councilwoman Beverly Williams, chair of the council's Utility Committee. "We don't know how long they'll last. These units are really old. They've met our expectations in the past, but we can't bank on that for the future."
Williams said it would cost more than $2 million to keep the generators available over the next three years, and even more than that if they needed to be taken apart for major repairs.
The city would be able to save that amount, which already is figured into the spending plans for capital improvements over the next five years, by taking the two units offline.
City Manager Scott Koenig told the Utility Committee during a Nov. 25 meeting that the city could make up for the loss of generating ability by negotiating for that power from the Calpine generating facility, now under construction east of Dover.
In other actions
Monday night, the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee again voted to demolish the vacant recreation building at Dover Park.
The unanimous decision authorizes Koenig to seek contracts to tear down the building and requires council set aside $80,000 for future capital improvements at the park. How those funds will be spent will be determined by the results of an ongoing 2014 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Study.
The full City Council will again take up the issue during its Feb. 24 meeting. Council has approved demolition before, but that decision was vetoed by Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr.
Afterward, council ordered city staff to set up the needs study, directing it be finished by the end of 2014.
Page 2 of 2 - Both committee Chairman Wallace R. Dixon and committee member Adam Perza said city residents need to get involved in the assessment process. Other than city staff, there were only about six members of the public at the meeting.
What happens next is up to the community, Perza said.
"The hope is that that the local community will embrace the opportunity to shape the future use of the park," Perza said afterward. "After months of meeting with both construction professionals and residents of the White Oak communities, the committee feels it has done as good a job as possible to resolve the question of what to do with the deteriorating old building."
Council will decide what to do next after it receives the assessment report, he said, but to do that, there must be community involvement.
"Making the decision without community feedback would be irresponsible," Perza said. "Taking no action with regard to the structure in disrepair is equally irresponsible."