SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover will meet with SWEPCO officials this week to discuss concerns raised by Fire Chief Brian Crawford about the J. Lamar Stall power plant under construction next door to the city's Central Fire Station. Glover says he has visited the site, "and it appears to be an unacceptable set of circumstances."
Crawford aired his concerns last week to KSLA News 12, as ongoing "steam blow" testing at the plant created an atmosphere so noisy that all outdoor operations and training have been put on hold. Aside from the noise, Chief Crawford is concerned about the potential for problems at the plant that could block access to the only entrance to the fire department, and keep his firefighters from responding to emergencies in the city.
SWEPCO says the new plant is necessary to help the utility handle the growing demand for power. Crawford takes issue with the decision to build the 508 megawatt combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plant so close to the fire station, claiming, "If we had any inclination that they were actually going build this huge plant here, we would have never chosen this site."
The city bought the property from SWEPCO in 2002 and finished the $5 million Central Fire Station in June of 2004. SWEPCO announced plans for the J. Lamar Stall Unit in August of 2006. It's expected to go online later this summer.
John Hubbard, Manager of External Affairs at AEP SWEPCO, will also attend the meeting. Hubbard acknowledged to KSLA News 12 that Chief Crawford had asked about the possibility of relocation, but says the city and the fire administration knew the property was zoned for industrial use, regardless of any assurance that there were no plans for a power plant at the time they were considering purchasing the property to build the fire station.
The city's purchase of the property at 263 North Common Street came before Glover became Mayor. "We simply deal with those things as they are when we come into office," Glover says, adding, "We knew that SWEPCO obviously had the right to do what it is that they've done up to this point, with land that they owned that was zoned as it was. We're now at this point, now that construction appears to be substantially complete and we see the problems that appear to be developing as they are, we're going to look and try to do what we have to do in order to protect the safety of the men and women who serve the city of Shreveport at the Shreveport Fire Department."
Regardless of how the "unacceptable set of circumstances" came to be, Glover says finger-pointing won't add any clarity to the situation. He says he'll be going into Thursday's meeting "with an open, positive, constructive mind, with the expectations that they're as focused on addressing what appears to be a problem as I and the leaders of the city of Shreveport are."