Author: Michael Lester
Source: Press Enterprise
 

SALEM TWP. – The firms collaborating to build a $1 billion natural gas power plant outside Berwick say they’ll donate over $800,000 for community projects over the next two decades, including funding to reconstruct Mingle Inn Road, where the plant will be located.

Still, Salem Township Supervisor Steve Fraind said Wednesday the township has heard complaints about the project.

But “you guys have been wonderful to work with,” Fraind told Ross D. Ain at the site of the future plant.

Ain is president of the privately held, New York City-based Caithness Energy.

“When we get complaints from the residents, you address them,” Fraind added.

Money for fire company

Ain said Caithness has been in talks with PennDOT to reconstruct a stretch of Mingle Inn from Route 11 beyond the site of the plant, which has become rough for travelers since construction of the plant began at the end of last year.

Officials from the Caithness Moxie Freedom plant hosted a press conference yesterday to present a $5,000 check to volunteers from the Salem Township Fire Co.

Ain said the plant will give $10,000 more to the fire company next year and $20,000 in 2018, when the plant is expected to be operating.

In 2019, it will donate $20,500 to the fire company, and the contribution will increase from there in increments of $500 per year for a span of 19 years, Ain announced.

Overall, that will mean over $500,000 for Salem firefighters, who will be the first volunteers called out to any emergencies at the site.

Rich Eyer, an assistant chief with Salem, expressed the company’s thanks for the money. He said the department’s call volume continues to increase while funding and volunteer numbers have declined.

‘Confusing but refreshing’

State Rep. Tarah Toohill, R-Hazelton, admitted that when she first met with officials planning the plant, she was skeptical because private firms are usually just looking for government “handouts.”

But she eventually concluded Caithness “wanted to put people to work. It was confusing but refreshing.” Ain said construction is 12 percent complete with 210 people now working at the site. Thus far, those laborers have put in 200,000 hours of work.

Ain said Caithness plans its first “test firing” of the plant in January 2018 with hopes of generating electricity to sell to a regional grid in May 2018.

‘Good neighbor’

“We made a commitment to be a good neighbor,” Ain told volunteer firefighters. “Hopefully, this will give you the stability you need.”

Caithness is building the plant in conjunction with Virginia-based Moxie Energy and Connecticut-based Gemma Power Systems.

Caithness has already donated $300,000 to help with the renovation of the Berwick’s Ber-Vaughn swimming pool.

Gemma has donated $28,000 for the construction of two pavilions at Salem’s public park. And Caithness has “committed to update the park’s playground to make it accessible to people with disabilities,” according to a press release.