THE ISSUE: County manager says more needs to be done to offset loss of nuclear plant.

OUR OPINION: Event forced the county to refocus economic development efforts.

At a recent meeting with federal officials to discuss decommissioning issues at the now-closed Crystal River Nuclear Plant, County Administrator Randy Oliver told officials that more must be done to mitigate the loss of jobs and hit to the county tax base caused by the plant closing.

His presentation raises interesting questions about what the county needs to do as it refocuses its economic development efforts and what role the power company should take in those efforts.

When the plant closed in 2013, it was a watershed event for Citrus County, where jobs and tax from the revenue had been a major economic driver in the county since Florida Power first started developing the plant site north of Crystal River in the 1950s.

After the first two coal plants on the site were finished, construction of the nuclear plant began in the early 1970s, and eventually the plant provided more than 500 well-paid permanent jobs and another 400-500 contract and/or temporary jobs in the community.

With the nuclear plant and four coal plants operating, the site also paid about a third of the total ad valorem taxes collected in the county.

But this changed when the plant containment was damaged during a major refurbishing of the nuclear plant, creating an estimated $1 billion repair cost. The economic impact of this situation helped lead to Duke purchasing Progress Energy and ultimately making the economic decision to close the plant rather than repairing it.

Since the plant closing was announced, Duke has provided the services of a consultant to help Citrus County map an economic development plan, and later has built a modern gas-fired plant that provided about 3,000 temporary construction jobs and about 50 permanent jobs and the plant will pay an estimated $4 million in taxes annually.

While the economic assistance and new gas plant are welcome and help offset the impact of the plant closing, they are not on the same order of magnitude as the economic impact of the closed nuclear and coal plants.

This is why one Crystal River resident and a former nuclear plant employee has argued that there should be some type of economic reparation paid to the community.

While we can understand the sentiment, we are also aware that Citrus County has benefited from the bargain it made with Florida Power over 50 years ago when the plant was first sited. This was an economic home run for the county that has been a factor for all of these years.

But Duke is not responsible for our economic future. They have been and we hope they will continue to be active partners in our economic development, but it is still up to the county to chart and implement plans to continue economic growth.

The plant closing has forced us to refocus our economic development plans. Our economic future will be determined by how well we make and implement these plans, not by whether we receive additional support from Duke Energy or any other company.

(2) comments

CitrusCo Citizen

Appreciate all of the interesting information but I'm not sure what your main idea is.

RobertRoscow

I have heard stupid statements about economic

growth, the county’s prosperity, and the county’s long ties to what began as the Florida Power Complex and is now the Duke Power Complex. Since I was in HS the construction and operation of the power complex has literally kept this county afloat. Not only did it provide construction jobs to many of my friends but also paid as I recall 1/3rd of The county’s taxes. Mr. Oliver has apparently confused things. The entire complex pays 1/3 of the county taxes not just the decommissioned nuclear unit. Duke is looking to decommission the two coal fired units that do not have scrubbers and I assume build new gas fired units like the ones that just replaced the nuclear unit. Duke cannot just stop supplying power to a huge area of Florida . That would not be a sound response on their part financially for Duke Power or the commitment they have to their customers. The gas units will be less expensive that the nuclear units but it was unfortunately not Duke’s fault that Progress Energy retained a bunch of idiots to upgrade the nuclear unit who then proceeded to cut the steel tension rods that were a critical component of the pressure vessel’s concrete reinforcement. Any house builder in the county can tell you that was dumber than dumb. But to now conclude that we will sail along without Duke Power takes economic stupidity to new levels never before seen. In stead the BOCC is supporting the massive destruction of our ecotourism economy by cheering on new toll roads that will have inestimable environmental impacts. They seem to be banking on convenience stores and gas stations that pay minimum wage. Does the BOCC and economic brain trust people really think we can compete against Ocala and the Industrial park in Brooksville by holding up not even completed plans??!!’ Sorry folks but it ain’t going to work that way. The last architecture job I led was for a 300,000 sf industrial plant that made coax cable and microwave dish antennas for 2nd and 3rd world companies that are leap frogging telephone pole dinosaur technology that dates back to Morse. It also had a 40,000 sf office building and was owned by a European conglomerate. The plant was over 1/3rd of a mile long and it was the largest job in Connecticut at the time. It was placed in an existing industrial park that also had pharmaceutical firms and a 300,000 USPO mail sorting facility. It was not a “paper drawing “ by any means but had water, sewer, high Voltage power, telecommunications , etc. You need a lot of water for an industrial park since without it no insurance company will insure anything. We had to have fire hydrants all over to get insurance and for the process.

I’m sorry folks but you are off in la la land. You won’t even be considered by a company unless this is all in place. If they decide to build they send out their real estate people to start looking at existing sites not talkatectecture. They are ready to invest not shoot the bull with you. And finally these plants pay more than minimum wage. They also want to unfortunately be on interstate highways not in flood zone highways through lowland timberlands.

My cousin own land by the Inverness airport but I just have to tell her that it’s still just paper dreams. Get some BOCC members with experience and economic consultants who deal with more than convenience stores. The Suncoast Parkway ain’t going to save you!!!

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