Power Plant Idling Worries Hancock County Residents, Officials

Big Rivers plans to idle the Coleman Station near Hawesville May 1st, leading many wondering how to make up for lost business.
A huge blow to Hancock County's economy. Big Rivers is closing its Coleman station, which is just west of Hawesville. That means come May 1st, nearly a hundred people will be out of a job.

"As local business owners, we depend on these factories and we depend on these industries," says Galaxy Pizza owner Jeremy Chappell.

Galaxy Pizza depends on the Coleman plant for electricity, and business.

"I do a lot of deliveries business down to the plants," Chappell says. "Whenever they have contractors, vendors, business meetings they have down there, I get good catering jobs out of that."

But those catering jobs will stop when the plant closes next month.

"I'm definitely going to lose a good relationship with Big Rivers," he says.

Nearly 100 workers will lose their jobs May 1st. It comes as century aluminum ended its contract with big rivers last year -- so it could buy electricity on the open market.

"For me to turn on my air conditioners, I'm looking at a 30% increase in my electrical bill," Chappell adds. "That's what's going to hurt me the most."

"It leaves our county very vulnerable," says Hancock Co. Judge Executive Jack McCaslin. He says the loss also means a loss of hundreds of thousands of tax revenue, and one less way the county can lure new industry. McCaslin says the Coleman plant, and low electricity rates were vital in bringing in more jobs.

"with the closing of this plant and the rate increases, we're going to be among the highest in the region," he says. "So that takes away some of our strategies in recruiting new industry. We used to say we got cheap power. We got an abundance of it, and we can't say that anymore."

But Chappell says the closure isn't a business killer. He says they'll find ways to make up for lost sales and lost customers.

"Every restaurant owner will tell you you've got to pound the pavement a little more and find something different." he adds. "Maybe change the menu a little bit and hit a niche of the market that we normally don't cater to."

Another plant, the D.B Wilson near Centertown in Ohio County, was also supposed to close, but that will stay open until at least next February.
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