Akron voters spoke loudly at the polls on Tuesday, with an unprecedented 84 percent voting in favor of donating the city’s aging steam plant to Akron Children’s Hospital. The issue passage does not mean the hospital will begin running the plant.
“We will not be in the steam plant operation business here,” said Hospital CEO and President Bill Considine. “We are all about caring for the children we are privileged to serve.”
The hospital administration will work alongside city officials, Akron General Medical Center and other major steam users throughout the city to identify and meet with potential owner-operators of the steam plant.
Because the steam plant is in desperate need of an upgrade, First Energy is contributing experienced staff and securing the services of an independent engineering firm to assess the issues facing the facility. The firm will then recommend upgrades necessary to produce reliable steam for its customers for decades to come.
Before the transfer of the steam plant’s ownership, however, a suitable owner-operator will need to be identified, a viable equipment modernization plan adopted, and a determination made that the plant will provide competitively priced steam and chilled water. Once these steps have been taken, Akron City Council will need to approve the final terms of the transfer and Akron Children’s Board of Directors will need to vote to accept the donation.
Akron Children’s will designate that the city transfer the ownership directly to the approved owner-operator in lieu of taking direct title to the facility itself. An owner-operator will be able to invest more in the plant and ensure its continuing, efficient operation.
Akron Children’s new medical tower will increase the hospital’s energy demands in 2015. Issue 4 saves the hospital, and the many other entities dependant on the plant, from building their own energy plants. The estimate for Akron Children’s to build its own plant is $7 to $9 million. That money can be redirected to patient care.
“Issue 4 was the right thing for the community. If you do the right thing, the right way, everyone wins,” said Considine.