WILLMAR — The Willmar Power Plant will be torn down, mostly likely sometime in 2022, unless a buyer comes forward by Sept. 1 with an idea to rehabilitate the structure and the money to see it through.
Willmar Municipal Utilities' plan to abate the asbestos in the building and then tear it down was given the final green light Monday night, after the Willmar City Council approved the minutes of the Feb. 8 Municipal Utilities Commission meeting, when the commission gave its permission for the plan.
There was no City Council discussion about the plant demolition prior to approval of the minutes, though Councilor Michael O'Brien, who represents the council on the Utilities Commission, spoke on the issue briefly toward the end of the meeting. He gave a short overview of the plan, which includes the removal of the asbestos and other toxic substances and the teardown of the plant itself.
"That is what we voted for," O'Brien said. "The demolishment of that plant and the abatement, of course, is with that as well."
The power plant was officially shut down at the end of June 2020, when the Willmar district heat system was decommissioned. However, the plant last produced electricity for the city in 2018. Willmar buys the vast majority of its electricity from the power market, which is significantly cheaper than producing it.
Following the shutdown, Willmar Municipal Utilities hired Wenck Associates to complete two environmental studies on the plant and the land it sits on to uncover exactly what it would take to demolish the structure, including what type of toxic and hazardous materials would need to be removed, or abated. Wenck estimates the abatement and teardown of the plant will cost $2.7 million. Willmar Municipal Utilities has budgeted $5 million for the entire project.
The utilities is also having to reconstruct the downtown power substation. Currently some of the infrastructure to provide power to portions of Willmar are still operating in the power plant. Those controls will need to be relocated to a new building prior to the plant being demolished. That project is estimated to cost $5.3 million. The Utilities Commissioner recently engaged DGR Engineering to provide engineering services for the project.