More than three years ago two Clermont County communities and a school district were dealt a financial blow when the W.C. Beckjord Power Station was “retired.”
After 60 years of electric generation, the coal-fueled power plant that straddled Pierce Township and New Richmond in stopped producing energy.
As a result, Pierce Township suffered a nearly $700,000 annual revenue loss, the Village of New Richmond lost between $300,000 to $350,000 annual revenue. The New Richmond School District took the biggest hit. As a result of the plant’s retirement the district experienced a $1.5 million revenue reduction.
News this week of Beckjord’s sale brings new hope to these communities of financially brighter days ahead.
“The impact of what this announcement represents will create positive economic and quality of life improvements across Clermont County and the region for decades to come. This is a tipping point for economic growth in Clermont County,” according to Bob Pautke, the board chair of Connect Clermont and the executive director of LEAD Clermont County. Pautke was the president of the Pierce Township Board of Trustees when Beckjord was retired.
Beckjord ownership – Duke Energy, American Electric Power, and Dayton Power & Light – in a release Monday announced that it finalized the power plant’s sale to Commercial Liability Partners. Financial terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.
Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky President Jim Henning noted that Beckjord played a vital role in Clermont County’s economy.
“We’ve pursued an outcome that will advance the county’s priorities with regard to safeguarding the environment and revitalizing the property, and we’re pleased that this historic property is poised for a second act as an integral part of our community,” he said in a statement.
To facilitate the county’s economic development, Duke Energy announced that it will contribute $750,000 over a three-year period to Connect Clermont, a nonprofit community organization designed to implement countywide priorities. Connect Clermont will serve as the fiscal agent for the funds.
Pierce Township is pleased by the news, according to Trustee Chair Allen Freeman.
“As with anything, however, the devil is always in the details,” Freeman said. “It does give us an opportunity for economic development and growth. The other exciting part, when we met with the developer yesterday, it was very clear that they have a plan for environmental remediation on the site. They’ve reached out to the (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency). They will be working with (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) on the development of that plan and ultimately with local and county jurisdictions.”
New Richmond Village Administrator Greg Roberts said that the village is “cautiously optimistic” the sale will bring a new future for the site.
“At this point, there is nothing in the announcement that would indicate a calculable direct benefit to the village,” he said.
The sale of Beckjord is good for the New Richmond community and for southern Clermont County, New Richmond Schools Superintendent Adam Bird said.
“It’s too early to say what kind of financial impact it could have on New Richmond Exempted Village School District,” he said. “If it does have an impact, it won’t happen soon enough. We are currently experiencing a dramatic decline in revenue because of the closing of Beckjord, the devaluation of Zimmer, and the decline of Public Utility Tangible Personal Property money from the state of Ohio.”
Where there is brownfield of Beckjord, Clermont County leadership envisions a mix of commercial and recreational businesses that are environmentally safe.
During a Monday meeting, Pautke said plans were announced to begin the plant’s demolition in a couple of weeks. Duke will work with the OEPA on plans to remove environmental issues; all aimed at the repurposing the property into clean, useful commercial and possibly recreational uses, he said.
“As the board chair of Connect Clermont, we are grateful to Duke Energy for their kind and continued support of our Agenda For The Future,” Pautke said. “Connect Clermont exists to harness the collective power of individuals and organizations to continually improve life in Clermont County. Connect Clermont is a Community Advocate. Duke’s investment in Clermont will make a positive difference in the lives of Clermont people and their organizations.”