By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO May 24, 2002 The Calpine Corporation has been considering building an electrical power plant behind the Sullivan County Landfill in Monticello. Before they move forward with the project, they have been gauging public reaction to see if the plant is welcomed by the community. So far, they have met with the Sullivan County Legislature's Department of Public Works (DPW) Committee and held a public forum at the Neighborhood Facility in Monticello.
Calpine made yet another presentation at the Village of Monticello's Board meeting on Monday, May 20 and the reception was less than warm.
Calpine representatives, along with Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President Mike Sullivan, outlined the plan. Yet before they even had the opportunity to speak, those in the audience made it known they were against the project.
"You need to say no to Calpine. We don't need them," remarked village resident Craig Johnson during the public comment portion of the meeting. "Every time someone wants to stick a piece of junk in Sullivan County, they come to Monticello. Think three times and say no."
The proposed project involves land that is owned by the county that Calpine is looking to purchase. The plant would produce between 540 and 1,080 megawatts of power and would run on natural gas for between $350 and $700 million. Up to 400 construction jobs will be created and 25-35 permanent jobs with a $2 million payroll once the plant is operational.
Under New York State law, Calpine has to start whats called an Article X Process, which assesses public opinion and government support. It is a lengthy process and can take several years. It is intended to ensure the project is safe and conforms to all regulations.
"This is the beginning of an extensive dialogue," commented Calpine Community Relations representative John Flumerfelt. "We want to move forward. We are not seeking a full endorsement at this time. It is too early for that. There are many details that are still yet to be determined."
Many comparisons were made that evening to the project Calpine is doing in Wayawanda in Orange County. It took about three years to get all those approvals. Construction is set to begin, and that should take about two years.
For the Sullivan County project, Calpine officials pointed out some advantages to the village. Calpine would annex into the sewer and water system, and potentially, it could lower sewer rates for village residents. Also, Calpine is interested in buying the village's wastewater. Calpine would treat it and use it in their plant.
But some on the board remained leery of the proposal.
"What would this do for the village?" Trustee Scott Schoonmaker asked. "There are safety issues here. Bringing a natural gas line in is like bringing a potential timebomb into the village. I do not think we should go forward."
Village board member David Rosenberg introduced a resolution encouraging the county to sell the property to Calpine. However, no one else on the board seconded it. So it went no further.
Rosenberg was shocked and outraged.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot," Rosenberg said. "This would have been a shot in the arm for this community! When has someone brought in 1 job, let alone 35 jobs? One person spoke out, and it does not go forward. I am just amazed."
Sullivan and Calpine officials said they were amazed and disappointed. However, they still plan to move forward. The Legislature's DPW Committee is holding a special meeting to discuss Calpine on Tuesday, May May 28, at 1 p.m. in the Legislative Committee Room at the Government Center.