President Outlines Benefits of Lordstown Project

WARREN, Ohio – Despite what the paperwork indicates, the 100% tax abatement assigned to a proposed $800 million electrical generation plant project in Lordstown in no way shortchanges the community, officials say.

“There’s a little bit of a misnomer in that we’re asking for a 100% abatement,” said Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future Lordstown LLC, shortly before Trumbull County commissioners approved the measure at their meeting Wednesday (READ STORY).

As part of the agreement, Boston-based Clean Energy has negotiated a 15-year tax payment to the Lordstown Village School District that will take effect once the plant becomes operational, he noted. “It starts out at $1 million a year for five years, escalates to $1.25 million for five years, and then ends up the last five years at $1.5 million a year.”

Also, the company has agreed to help the school system dismantle and raze a vacant middle school on the corner of Salt Springs and Tod Avenue, and install a new soccer field encircled by a synthetic running track.

Lordstown Local Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong said the deal brings a sense of financial stability to a school district that was foundering, especially after the state of Ohio phased out the tangible personal property tax.

“We’ve encountered many years where we had to borrow to make payroll, so the donations in lieu of the abatement and the donations on the front end will help stabilize our budget,” Armstrong said.

The school district will receive $500,000 up front when the project breaks ground, Armstrong he said.

Moreover, the entire Mahoning Valley stands to benefit, Siderewicz added. An analysis conducted by Calypso Communications found that the region could enjoy as much as $1.45 billion in economic benefits over the first 25 years of the project.

“It’s quite significant for a project that requires no investment by any public entity,” he said. And, the plant is in negotiations with municipalities that would provide water and wastewater treatment services.

At least 450 tradesmen will be involved on the three-year construction project, which is expected to break ground in either late September or early October, Siderewicz noted. Once operational, the plant will employ 26 workers full time.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill estimates the city would collect between $500,000 and $700,000 through its 1% income tax through the 30-month construction phase, and between $30,000 and $35,000 a year once full-time employment ramps up at the site.

“These are going to be good-paying jobs,” Hill said.

Siderewicz reports that the project has submitted both the air quality permit application to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and another permit with the Ohio Power Siting Board. Officials are working on the final steps of the approval process and are expected to visit the acre site along Henn Parkway June 10.

“There will be an open public meeting in Lordstown on July 28, where the public is invited to speak their views about the project,” he said. “Hopefully, shortly after that, there’ll be a decision about approval or non-approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board. We remain hopeful that both parties will approve the permits, which will allow us to break ground at the end of September of this year.”

Siderewicz said that he’s confident that the company has addressed all of the environmental, social and local issues that could be of concern to the boards. “We have not seen any obstacles to date,” he said.
Clean Energy is on track with financial advisor Whitehall & Co. to close on financing by late September and begin construction immediately, Siderewicz said. Initial work would include clearing the site, placing piles in the ground and then pouring concrete before the winter sets in.

The biggest concern for the project at the moment is an approval from First Energy Corp. that would allow the plant’s electrical lines to run underneath First Energy’s lines in order to reach the transmission system.

“That’s a technicality that we do not control, and we’re hoping that the technical engineers in First Energy in Akron will give us the answer we’re looking for. We see this as the biggest issue that’s left unresolved,” Siderewicz said.

Clean Energy Future’s plant will be powered by natural gas, and Lordstown was selected as the site because of its proximity to adequate power lines and the abundance of natural gas being drilled from the Utica shale.

Pre-engineering work and testing has already started at the proposed site just off state Route 45, since the plant will house large turbines able to produce 800 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 700,000 houses.

Initially, the project was proposed for a 57-acre site along Carson Salt Springs Road, but the Lordstown zoning committee did not approve a zoning variance that would accommodate the project.

Shortly thereafter, officials searched for another site in Lordstown, and selected the Henn Parkway land.

Commissioner Frank Fuda praised Siderewicz, Mayor Hill and the Lordstown Village Council for their determination to see the project move forward in Trumbull County.

There hasn’t been an investment of this scale since Vallourec Star invested more than $1 billion to construct its new pipe mill in Youngstown. “I think this is second only to Vallourec,” Fuda said.

Pictured: Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future Lordstown LLC, attended Wednesday’s meeting of the Trumbull County Board of Commissioners.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.