Indeck plant could break ground this summer

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

NILES — Niles City Council members voted on several items Monday night that advanced work on the Indeck Niles project, but the approvals came with a word of warning from one council member.

City leaders voted 7-1 on all the following items: the sale of roughly 167 additional acres to the company, a Consent to Assignment Agreement and an Irrevocable Letter of Credit.

With the approvals Monday, City Administrator Ric Huff said he expects the natural gas to energy company to wrap up paperwork with financers in April. The company is expected to break ground on the approximately $1.1 billion project in July or August. The plant could potentially be operational in 2021. 

Council member Dan VandenHeede, who voted in opposition to each of the items above, expressed a variety of concerns about Indeck’s operation in Niles.

“My goal all along has been to make Niles a place people want to live,” VandenHeede said. “I don’t think a 1,000-megawatt power plant, which would put out lots of pollution … [and that] is going to be a very industrial and visible thing is not what most people want in their backyard.”

Indeck Niles is slated for construction in Industrial Park. Once built, the energy plant is expected to produce enough energy to power 635,000 homes. The company is also touting the creation of 550 temporary construction jobs throughout the three-year building process and 21 full-time jobs to operate the facility.

The project has been in the works for about three years now. This is also not the first time the company has proposed investing in an energy plant.

Indeck had proposed two separate plans for a plant — less than 20 years ago — and both times, the projects fell through.

VandenHeede called into question why the city should trust the company with that kind of record. He also disputed what the city would gain from the project financially.

Huff said the city would collect tax revenue from the project.

“It starts out at about $150,000 a year, year one, year two and goes to about $250,000 a year through year 13 and then in year 14 it jumps up to about $1.5 million in tax value,” he said.

The project is expected to generate about $1 million in a brownfield redevelopment fund, additionally.

But VandenHeede said he did not have much faith in the company.

“If I were you, I would not put a bet on what benefit we actually see just from my past experience,” VandenHeede said.

Council member John DiCostanzo said the company could help to bolster revenue, while also filling energy demand.

“It is going to burning some fossil fuel, but the power generated is going to be replacing coal plants that are being decommissioned,” he said. “It will [be] relatively clean and relatively quiet.”

The additional land that was approved for sale Monday is located north of Korn Street and south of White Street. The area will provide space for transmission lines. The sale is approximated to bring in about $467,236 to the city’s general fund.

The Consent to Assignment Agreement will be signed by the mayor and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Indeck obtained debt-financing commitments and the signed document will allow the lenders to step in and continue operation or construction of the facility with all previous approval from Indeck. If the project should have to be decommissioned, the Irrevocable Letter of Credit, which named Niles as the beneficiary to $1 million, will give the city the funds to do so.

Reflecting on the developments Monday, Huff said he would be excited about the progress “when a shovel goes in the ground.”

Other items discussed Monday:

The Niles City Council voted unanimously to approve to recoat Cherry Street water tower for the base bid of $252,900 from L&T Painting. The cost includes the paint, but not a logo. Huff said the city leaders are still working out logo pricing details. The council and community have been weighing in on whether the paint job should feature either the city logo or Niles High School’s Viking mascot. Huff said selecting the logo will have to come later in the process.

“We need to get this contract settled, so we can lock in the pricing,” Huff said.