Commissioners Plan to Vote on Plant Soon

MOUNDSVILLE – After receiving postcards from Project BEST expressing support for the planned $615 million Moundsville Power natural gas electricity plant, Marshall County commissioners may proceed with a vote on the related Payment in Lieu of Tax agreement in the coming weeks.

“We hope to bring it up in the next week or two,” Commissioner Don Mason said immediately following the Tuesday meeting. “Without these agreements, this facility would never be built.”

Mason and Commissioner Brian Schambach attended the Tuesday meeting, but Commissioner Bob Miller missed the session due to injury. Mason and Schambach maintain they will support the PILOT plan as long as they are assured the county will be protected from potential liabilities at the site, while Miller steadfastly opposes the action he believes could cost taxpayers millions.

“As a state, we need to find a way to attract these things without giving away the farm,” Miller said when reached after the meeting.

On Tuesday, Mason and Schambach reviewed a postcard they received that shows support for the Moundsville Power plant. Project BEST, a Wheeling-based labor management organization that promotes construction work throughout the Upper Ohio Valley, is one of the names listed on the card, as is the Upper Ohio Valley Building Trades.

During a July meeting, Walter “Fuzz” LaRue, representative of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, and Keith Hughes, business manager at Ironworkers Local No. 549 in Wheeling, joined other construction employees to tell commissioners they should support the PILOT agreement for the power plant. LaRue and Hughes said local workers could earn up to $70 million worth of wages for building the plant, which would be located on 37.5 acres of land along the Ohio River.

The provisions of the PILOT call for the county to purchase the plant from Moundsville Power for the sum of $1 upon its completion. Instead of the Buffalo, N.Y.-based private developer then paying regular property taxes, the company would give commissioners about $31 million worth of lease payments over a 30-year span.

Marshall County Assessor Christopher Kessler estimates this is about $13 million less than commissioners would collect if the company fell under a regular property tax agreement. However, proponents maintain the county is gaining virtually no property tax from the land in question now, so they believe bringing a natural gas power plant to the site is a wise move.

“We are continuing to move forward on the information,” Mason said. “This is not something that has not been tried before.”

In 2008, the CertainTeed gypsum wallboard facility opened along W.Va. 2 near the American Electric Power Kammer and Mitchell coal-fired power plants. Mason cites this as an example of a successful PILOT project.

As commissioners position themselves on the PILOT agreement, Moundsville Power Managing Partner Andrew Dorn recently sent in the proposed plant’s siting application, along with a $200,000 non-refundable fee, for consideration by the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.

If completed, Dorn estimates the plant would employ about 30 full-time workers.