May 8, 2016
A planned shutdown of some coal-fired electrical power units in east central Illinois will mean the loss of 47 jobs this fall at the Newton Power Station and continue the debate in Illinois over a power auction system.
Houston, Texas-based Dynegy last week announced it would close two power units at the Baldwin Power Station in Baldwin, and one of two power units at that Newton Power Station in Newton, with that power unit expected to be shut down in September.
Though it’s fewer than 50 jobs, they are among the highest-paid in Jasper County, something that Newton Mayor Mark Bolander fears could have a ripple effect in the community. The power plant jobs represent salaries of $80,000 a year and higher, the mayor said, and are among the top paying positions in the county of less than 10,000 residents.
Bolander estimates half of the 47 jobs are from Jasper County. “If workers have to move to get another job out of the county, there is another double dip, as we could perhaps lose property tax on homes they have. These are nice homes,” he said, estimating $150,000 homes pay about $4,000 a year in property taxes.
And the power station’s planned job cuts extend east into Crawford County and to the city of Robinson, Ill…
While job loses are not expected until September, some Newton business owners are concerned of the long-term impact.
Gaspare Cucinella, owner of Joe’s Italian Foods & Pizza, located on the courthouse square in Newton, said the lost of jobs in September “is very unfortunate. The community will feel that,” he said. “There are a lot local people who work there and out of town people. Obviously, losing the local people is going to be a big impact and the out of town people as well..but I am hoping that somehow by the grace of God they can work this out” to keep the power plant open long term.
Directly to his business, Cucinella said workers at the power plant order 8 to 10 pizzas at least once a week. “That’s $90 to $120 a week and about $500 a month,” he said…
His wife, Jill, said Jasper County “can’t afford any more job loss and those power plant jobs are the highest paid jobs in the county,” she said. “We have already become a bedroom community. Most people who work here commute to Effingham, Robinson and Olney. We need jobs. It’s been a trickle effect for the last 10 years. I think a lot of this is political, all about coal,” she said.