Former power plant property could be used for residential

The property is currently a grass lot with a service garage.

The City of Jasper is taking steps to determine if the former power plant property can be used for the creation of workforce development housing.

The Jasper Redevelopment Commission approved paying $23,350 for environmental and geotechnical work to be completed on the nearly nine-acre property at Tuesday’s meeting.

The coal-fired power plant originally on the site was built in 1968 and could produce about 14.5 megawatts of electricity. From the 70s until 2007 the power plant provided power during peak demands but otherwise was not in operation.

In 2007, with soaring coal prices and decreasing electrical usage due to the economic slowdown, the City of Jasper entered into an agreement with the Indiana Municipal Power Agency for 100 percent of the city’s electrical needs and the power plant was placed on standby for use by the Midwest Independent System Operator.

In 2009, the city began to explore alternatives for the disposition of the power plant and eventually worked with a group to convert the coal-fired plant to burn biomass and natural gas to produce electricity. The group would lease the plant from the city.

The plan was met with resistance from a local group concerned about pollution and emissions from the plant and subsequently, after a protracted legal battle, the Twisted Oak Corporation eventually pulled from the project citing the project was no longer economically feasible in 2014.

The plant sat idle for several more years until it was demolished in 2018.

“The reason for all of this is because we are contemplating putting that out for requests for proposals to use that as residential development for multi-family workforce housing,” said City Attorney Renee Kabrick. “In order to be able to use it for residential, we have to do significantly more environmental investigation than we would if we were going to use it as a commercial site.”

When asked if there had been any commercial interest in the site, Kabrick told the commission there had not been any.

In regards to seeking proposals, she said the process would be similar to what occurred with the former Jasper Public Library property. The commission would consider the proposals it receives giving preference to the one that best meets the scope of the project.

The commission has authority over the property since it has been listed in the economic development plan for the Central Area Tax Increment Finance District.