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City considering donation of steam plant to Akron Children’s

8/29/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Mayor Don Plusquellic, at right, and Akron Children’s Hospital President and CEO William Considine spoke during a press conference Aug. 21 to explain the proposed donation of the city’s recycled energy system to the hospital.
Photo: Kathleen Folkerth
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron City Council will convene for a special meeting tomorrow, Aug. 30, to consider a proposal to ask voters to approve a charter amendment that would allow the city to donate its recycled energy system (RES) plant to Akron Children’s Hospital.

During a press conference Aug. 21, Mayor Don Plusquellic and hospital President and CEO William Considine explained the idea and stressed that if voters support the issue in the Nov. 5 General Election, the hospital would then seek out an owner-operator to address much needed repairs to the system and run it.

The plant provides hot and chilled water for heating and cooling systems to more than 50 downtown customers, according to city officials, including the Akron Art Museum, Akron General Medical Center (AGMC) and city and county offices.

Considine said the hospital is in the midst of a 10-year capital expansion plan. The new critical care tower, expected to open in 2015, will be dependent on the RES system as the hospital’s other downtown facilities are. The hospital had been considering construction of its own system, which Considine said would cost about $6 million, but officials there also realized that leaving the city system could result in a “domino effect” that would lead to problems down the road for the others who depend on it.

Because of Section 64 of the city’s charter, the donation of the system would need to be approved by voters. Akron City Council is currently on its summer break, so it was necessary to plan the special meeting to vote on putting the issue before voters. The deadline to have the paperwork submitted to the Summit County Board of Elections is Sept. 6, Plusquellic said.

If the charter amendment is approved, the hospital will not be obligated to accept the donation until the details of the long-term operation of the plant have been worked out and agreed to by all the parties involved and the transaction is approved by the Akron Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees, city officials said.

Plusquellic said he expects the hospital and city to work before the election to seek out potential owner-operators for the system. The system is currently operated by Akron Energy Systems, which may be interested in taking on the role, the mayor said.

Considine said hospital officials would like to know by the end of this year if the existing plant will work out or if the hospital needs to proceed on building its own.

The mayor said both Summa Health System and The University of Akron have their own plants. AGMC’s President and CEO Tim Stover said in a letter to Plusquellic that he offers his “support to your endeavor to bring about a long-term solution to this major community concern.”

Plusquellic said the steam plant, which burns trash to create fuel, has been operational since 1979. He said the city has put $600,000 into system repairs so far this year, and last year spent $6 million. City officials estimate that costs for repairs and upgrades to the system range from $6 million to $47 million.

“We don’t have a lot of capital,” Plusquellic said. “What we do have we need to put into bridges and streets and police cars.”

The meeting will take place at noon in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron.

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