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Salem Discusses Power Plant Site's Future

At the first public hearing on possible uses of the 53-acre harborfront site, residents agree redevelopment presents 'an opportunity of a lifetime.'

Mayor Kimberley Driscoll said it's her “nightmare” that Dominion might padlock the gates at the and walk away in three years.

She said there is no law to stop the energy company from doing that.

She cautioned the 70 people who gathered Thursday night at the to discuss the feasibility study on the plant site's future that “there has not been a lot of dialogue with Dominion,” since an .

She said the Richmond, VA-based energy company, which owns the coal-fired generating plant, has not said that it wants to redevelop the property.

Dominion, which pays the city $4.75 million a year in taxes, has said it plans to shut down the plant by 2014.

The mayor said it is not clear how much tax the city can force Dominion to pay in the future, particularly once it stops generating electricity.

The public got a look at the early stages of planning by a team of consultants for the site. The team of architects, urban planners and energy consultants held its first public hearing on the feasibility study. A final report will be ready in the early fall, said Bob Koup with Jacobs.

Cleaning up the site would be very costly. The team estimated that it would cost $20 million to clean up the grounds. To demolish the buildings, which everyone agreed were not worth saving, would cost “significantly more,” Koup said.

The mayor used the figure of $100 million when speaking about possible clean up costs. But the consultants said this is only an estimate until Dominion allows the consulting team to tour the site.

In response to a suggestion that the city take over the property, the mayor said cleaning the site up and preparing it for redevelopment “might bankrupt the city.”

Just to replace the lost tax revenue would require that the city double the revenue from all downtown businesses, which the consultants said would take decades at the site.

Consultants Outline Opportunities for 53-acre Site.

The consultants outlined the opportunities the city has to redevelop the 53-acre site. They also presented a list of restraints.

The top challenge is finding a source of funds to clean up the site. But the site is also under fairly stringent federal and state regulations, largely because it is on the waterfront and has been designated as a port, which limits future development options.

Almost everyone who attended the meeting had a comment or idea for how to redevelop the prime harborfront property.

Most agreed with Michael Conley, who said of Dominion, “They made the mess. They made the profit. They need to clean up the site.”

“We are in a fix to replace those taxes,” said Pat Gozemba, who told the mayor that many Salem residents would be willing to pay $500 more per year in local taxes if the city came up with a visionary plan for the site.

James “Red” Simpson, the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents the plant employees, said, “It will be a sad day when the plant closes,” because it will cost 130 workers their jobs.

Simpson, who worked at the plant for 27 years before moving into the union leadership, warned that “Dominion could not care less about the city of Salem. They don't care about their employees.”

He said the mayor was right to worry that Dominion might walk away from the plant. “Dominion won't do anything they don't have to,” Simpson said.

There was a lot of opposition to the suggestion that the site could be redeveloped to produce power with natural gas. A few speakers supported the idea of building a natural gas production facility. But most preferred to consider other sources of power generation.

The most popular option was building off-shore wind turbines that would transmit the electricity to a plant at the site.

A few speakers, calling the site the potential “crown jewel” of Salem, suggested that it be developed into a park with boardwalks and restaurants.

The consultants suggested that the site probably should be developed with a mixture of marine industrial uses such as boat maintenance and storage, some office and commercial uses, some residential housing and possibly a higher education research facility like Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Driscoll was praised often for starting this planning process in 2011, well ahead of the plant closing.

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, who fought to close the plant, said Dominion's departure presents “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

windpower July 01, 2011 at 11:01 AM
First ,Where was the Salem news ? No news reported as of Friday ! Second ,the comments from the union leader were chilling . Salem has a much bigger problem than loss of tax. We could and probably will end up with a locked closed plant. How about keeping the tax rate as is ,don't reduce it when they close !
Diane Wolf July 01, 2011 at 11:10 AM
" “We are in a fix to replace those taxes,” said Pat Gozemba, who told the mayor that many Salem residents would be willing to pay $500 more per month in local taxes if the city came up with a visionary plan for the site." I don't know who the "many Salem residents" are that Pat spoke to, but I would be hard pressed to find anyone who has an extra $500 a month ($6000 per year) to help ease Salem's burden. Would that I could...
windpower July 01, 2011 at 11:46 AM
Diane $ The number is $500 a YEAR or $ 60 a month ,or one nite out to eat . Misquoted and a bad one at that . And for that matter has anyone looked at taxing Marblehead for their benefiting with this closing ?
Danielle DeHate July 01, 2011 at 12:57 PM
What happened to the idea of a cruise port/terminal? I have been a travel agent for years and have always felt Salem is missing out on an amazing opportunity. We have the history, the uniqueness, the shops, restaurants, tours, etc...to support this.
stephen pappas jr July 01, 2011 at 01:05 PM
they should be made to pay for clean up they made all the money, but no their to greedy like the rest of corporate america its a me me me america we need change now !
KlassySalem July 01, 2011 at 01:28 PM
I think a Salem News reporter was present. I'd look for something tomorrow. Silly print media with their deadlines.
KlassySalem July 01, 2011 at 01:29 PM
They're building one at Blaney Street. The concept of using some of the plant site to further support that was discussed.
John Dumas July 01, 2011 at 01:31 PM
the mayor said cleaning the site up and preparing it for redevelopment “might bankrupt the city.” Bankruptcy is NEVER and excuse for a resident who must clean up a site, how can it possibly be an excuse for a city?
KlassySalem July 01, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Her point was simply that we don't want to own the site because the potential cleanup costs exceed a full year operating budget for the city.
diane July 01, 2011 at 03:01 PM
I like the idea of a harborside like Boston's "harborwalk" around the Fan Pier area...maybe consult with Mayor Menino about it. Also, whoever this Pat Gozembo is, she has no right to offer up $500/per year per resident..who does she think she is and where is she getting these residents to volunteer??
john July 01, 2011 at 07:45 PM
The city TELLS me what my house is worth when issuing my tax bill.If Dominion has no plans to deal with the contamination once they leave,then why is there uncertainty as to what the city can tax them.The value of the land will remain the same as before the closure.For years the city has worked closely with the owners of the plant and now,all of a sudden ,there is no dialogue.The city needs to establish a plan to tax Dominion heavely if they plan to do nothing with the site.If I leave my house ,vacant, for whtever reason,the city will tax me the same as if I lived there.We need to understand that Domion is no longer calling the shots and the City of Salem is demanding answers.
KlassySalem July 01, 2011 at 07:54 PM
I don't disagree with you, but understand, Dominion currently pays a lot more in taxes than they would if they paid based on the value of the land/structure. Currently they pay about 5 times what Shetland does. If the plant closes, and we tax them based on the land/improvements value, like they do for us, their bill goes down dramatically.
john July 01, 2011 at 09:33 PM
So,how is it that the power plant once paid twice as much in taxes but mine have gone up yearly ,as the plant's have been cut in half?
john July 01, 2011 at 09:41 PM
In addition I don't think Shetland pays taxes on each buisness that operates there . They all pay there own taxes so how much (total tax revenue) comes out of Shetland? It's a poor comparison.
KlassySalem July 01, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Shetland is the landlord. Of course they pay the property taxes. It's the closest in size and property scope to anything in town, and matches pretty well.
john July 01, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Maybe I don't understand the tax structure.Dominion operates one business on one piece of property prompting one tax bill. Shetland is an office park.They pay taxes on the property.Each business ,doing business at shetland,also pays a commercial tax to the city. Am I wrong?
Barbara Baker July 03, 2011 at 06:06 PM
I'm concerned about a few things here. My #1 concern is the fact that 2x's a year, my taxes continually inch up. My recent bill had another increase!!! How is that ok? Now it's being hinted that things are about to get much worse in Salem because of the plant closing in 2014. How much is too much to ask of the good people of Salem who live and own property and businesses here? Shouldn't we be seriously looking at natural (green) engery solutions in Salem. Let's get with the program. Also, it's been mentioned that the plant has left a "mess." I would hope that they would have been following SOP's concerning such issues.
john July 04, 2011 at 02:28 AM
I bought my house in Salem 25 years ago.I have refied a number of times to pay for college but I have been able to keep my payments around $650.00. I feel I have done an excelent job managing my money.Now, I am getting close to the end of my mortgage and I am beggining to see that my tax bill is not much lower than my mortgage.What kind of trade off is that?I managed my money and the city did not.Those recent raises for 7 employees is a slap in the taxpayers face.
Diane Wolf July 04, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Sorry, my bad.

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