Light Plant Layoffs in January, Online Schedule Pushed Back to Summer

Repowering Project Coal Storage Domes

In a reluctant unanimous vote, Lamar Utility Board of Directors approved resolution 1201 during their Tuesday meeting, December 13, to ‘Implement a Reduction in Force’.  Light Plant Superintendent Rick Rigel said the employee reduction, brought about by a budget reduction from ARPA, will affect 13 employees who will be notified effective January 1, 2012.  Rigel said the personnel budget from ARPA, “…was about $1.15 million less in 2012, given operating conditions of eight months of reduced staff.”

This is a cost-saving move made in light of the Light Plant boiler not being able to remain under EPA compliance guidelines for its air permit.   Rigel said the plant has followed the boiler modifications made by Babcock and Wilcox, the boiler contractor, but at this point the most recent online date for next March, has now been pushed back to a non-specific point next summer.

The press release issued by ARPA and the Lamar Utilities Board reads in part, “The Lamar Repowering Project suspended operations in mid-November following completion of testing of certain modifications which were intended to bring the facility into full compliance with its air permit.  Although the tests showed that the plant could operate in compliance with its permit, it was unable to demonstrate sustained compliance.  ARPA is currently analyzing the test date with its boiler contractor, Babcock and Wilcox, which was responsible for engineering and implementing the modifications.  It is anticipated that additional modifications will be necessary for the boiler manufacturer to comply with all of its contract obligations, which include a reduction in emissions and improved operating efficient.

Under the terms of a Compliance Order entered into with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment earlier this year, ARPA and LUB are not permitted to operate the LRP until they can demonstrate compliance with the air permit.  Because it is anticipated that the additional modifications will take several months, the ARPA board has found it necessary to reduce the funding for plant operations and that will require the LUB to reduce plant staffing.  The suspension of Plant operations will not affect power deliveries to the ARPA communities.”

Rigel said he hoped the employees being laid off would be able to find jobs as quickly as possible, but he had no way of knowing at this point, if all those positions would need to be filled right away, when the Repowering Project was ready to come back on line once all the modifications to the boiler had been met.

Ron Cook, the newest member of the LUB asked Rigel if there was any way, “you could go back on B and W because of these costs?”  Rigel replied that, “In our discussions with B and W, we have reserved our right to recapture all the costs that we think is the result of the boiler not being operated in compliance.”  Cook added that the fault lies with B and W, but ARPA and LUB are going to take the hit in the public eye for the layoffs and the employees and their families are also taking the hit because of the non compliance issue.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessCitycommunityEconomyEmploymentEnergyFeaturedHollyLamarThe Journal AlertUtilities


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