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Duke project set to begin Monday

Duke Energy will start construction on its power plant project Monday, corporate officials told the Lawrence County Commission this morning.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Duke Energy will start construction on its power plant project Monday, corporate officials told the Lawrence County Commission this morning.

"The short answer is Duke Energy selects Lawrence County, Ohio, for a $600 million investment," said Chuck Claunch, Duke’s project development director.

After applause from Hamilton Township trustees, Rock Hill school officials, chamber of commerce representatives and others, commissioners praised Duke’s decision, calling it one that could change the economic future of the county.

Already, cutbacks in spending and layoffs have occurred, and commissioners have hinted at more job loss by the first of the year, citing declining sales tax income and other revenue losses.

Hundreds of construction jobs coming to Hamilton Township – not only from Duke’s project, but also Calpine Inc.’s similar multi-million dollar power plant – should boost local spending, which means a boost in sales tax revenue, county auditor Ray Dutey said.

Although the county won’t see the full effect from that financial boost until months after December, it will at least give officials hope when planning budgets, Dutey said.

And, while the company is getting a break from property taxes, it will still make a payment to county funds.

Duke plans to hire 400 to 500 workers to build its natural gas fired power plant that will use special turbines to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity.

Duke will move quickly, beginning pre-construction work such as engineering surveys and landscaping, on Monday, Claunch said. Duke expects to close its land lease deal with Dow Chemical on Friday, he said.

Full construction is contingent upon final environmental permits from the state, which are expected by mid-December.

When construction starts, residents will see good things happen, not only from the 30 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs per plant but also from extra government revenue, said Bob Blankenship, Hamilton Township trustee president.

Duke has already agreed to a tax break plan that means operating dollars for the township, health department, fire department and others – including a deal that pays off the Rock Hill school construction levy early.

"We can’t stop grinning now," Blankenship said.