Resident Ron "Ollie" Fritz opposed moving forward with the project, citing the cost of conversion. "It's going to be an enormous cost," he said. He asked council to "put a hold" on the project. Fritz read from a 2015 LNP article in which Public Works Director Ron Miller said, “We want to be the first. We like being first...We’ll be the guinea pig.” [Miller said the newspaper quote came from a phone interview with a journalist and implied that his words may not have been accurately reported.]
"I don't want to be the guinea pig," Fritz said in response to Miller's statement. "I can't see using all this LASA money for a project like this." [The borough sold its system to LASA for $8.6 million.]
Fritz recalled that when the issue was discussed last year, a 15-year payback on the venture was projected. He urged council to lease the plant instead. Fritz also noted unknowns about the venture. He told council that Miller had said the project could be lucrative, mediocre, or marginal. Council President Kelly Murphy explained that the purpose of the borough moving forward with the study is for risk assessment.
Fritz added that safety concerns exist due to bi-directional, full-speed trains that run past the plant. He noted the lack of even a simple crossbuck at the railroad crossing near the plant entrance and said lighted signals would be expensive: "Norfolk Southern would charge probably a half million dollars to put signals in there. They should be signaled properly."
Defending the venture, Miller said, "We didn't want to tear it [the plant] down. We were looking for alternatives." Estimates currently range from half a million to two million dollars to tear down the plant.
Resident Frank Doutrich asked if council had paperwork verifying demolition costs. [Council did not have costs estimates available to view.] Doutrich suggested that council turn the plant over to a private enterprise.
David Nikoloff, principal of AIM Advisors, the organization offering to undertake the study, said, "There's cost related to any alternative moving forward. We think there's a lot of promise in this alternative we're proposing." He also said tax credits are available for an entity undertaking such a project.