There's no smoke, and there's no fire... but that doesn't mean nothing is happening at Bay County's waste-to-energy facility. The incinerator hasn't been operable since February but progress is being made on a major repair project, according to the facility's operator.
Joe Tannehill, Jr., managing partner of Engen, LLC, updated county commissioners on the status of repairs at their Tuesday meeting. He said the involvement of 4-5 insurance companies has complicated the project and created delays.
When fire raced through the plant on the night of February 12, it put the incinerator out of business. Commissioner Mike Nelson is still burned up about what he perceives as lingering issues at the plant. "I'm just really displeased with the way this thing has turned out so far... we've worked so hard to get where we are [and] now this is the second fire," he said. "It just needs to be fixed and fixed correctly."
"I hear you [and] I agree we can't have another one," said Tannehill. "But I think that the changes that we're making will certainly help us in the right direction and operationally we need to make sure that we stop the fires."
Tannehill outlined three design changes intended to minimize the risk: improving the fire suppression system, separating the refuse building from the boiler building, and relocating administrative offices away from the main plant.
"There's some separation there so I think that gives us an added level of protection when it comes to issues of combustion," said Commissioner Guy Tunnell.
Tannehill said insurance companies have paid "business interruption" claims during the six month shutdown and are funding the $40 million repair project. "It's worth now probably well over a hundred million dollars and we owe somewhere in the twenties on it," said Commissioner George Gainer. "I think that what we've learned from the fires that have been out there and what we're doing to prevent them in the future… will have a very positive effect."
Tannehill said he expects the incinerator to be up and running in late October or early November. "I'll be really glad to see that smokestack cranked up again and operations full speed ahead over there," said Commissioner Tunnell.
In other business, commissioners gave final approval to development plans for the Treasure Island Marina site. The board also agreed to a settlement with Wex Tex Holdings, the site's owner, over a property dispute that arose during construction of the new Grand Lagoon Bridge.
The company filed a lawsuit in April 2010, claiming the project caused a major disruption to its businesses and encroached on its property. The settlement exchanges several easements and clarifies each party's ownership. Plans for redevelopment of the site have not been finalized.