Dover likely on the hook for surprise bills from power plant
DOVER (WJER) (April 13, 2022) – It seems the city is going to be stuck paying some surprise bills for work involving the light and power plant.
City council members Monday heard from Warren Holmes of Sulzer Turbo. The city owes that company more than $400,000 for work council members say they didn’t approve or even know about until getting the bills late last year.
Councilman members concluded it wasn’t Sulzer Turbo’s fault. They blamed the former plant superintendent.
“From listening to your explanation, I’m confident that you did everything you did. You’ve always given us a good project, a good completion. The machinery is still running,” said Councilman Bob Mueller. “I think the problem was Dave Filippi on our end.”
Filippi retired at the beginning of the year as council questioned the expenditures and called for his termination.
Holmes and council members said they don’t understand why Filippi didn’t get approval from council or the auditor.
“There was a dropping of the ball, let’s say, of getting a purchase order amended or another purchase order drafted and sent to us,” Holmes said.
“Now, knowing what we know, it seems like obviously Dave didn’t have y’all’s approval to do what he was doing.”
Council president Shane Gunnoe says council will meet Monday and likely approve paying the Sulzer Turbo bills.
City owes money on spare parts in other states
The city has spent and owes hundreds of thousands of dollars for work done on pieces of power plant equipment that it apparently has no use for.
City officials say Filippi recommended the city purchase the two used turbines – one decades ago and one about six years ago. They’re in St. Louis and Texas now.
New plant Superintendent Jason Hall says it would cost millions of dollars to make those parts compatible with the power plant.
“I have no use for it,” Hall said about the smaller turbine in St. Louis. “I wouldn’t even know what to do with it if it came back.”
Council members say they thought the parts were for emergency backup and were in the dark about the actual costs. They learned Monday it would likely cost more to install them than to just fix whatever’s broken, if the situation arises. It’s also costly and complicated to store the equipment.
Sulzer Turbo is in possession of one of the turbines. Holmes said he heard the part was for an expansion project.
“I was told by Dave he was going to put that in the power plant and make more power,” Holmes said.
Hall said talk of expanding the power plant died out around 2008.
Council decided the city will pay about $8,700 to ship the turbine from St. Louis back to Dover, then likely sell it in a scrap package.
Officials are still trying to figure out what to do with larger turbine in Texas. Holmes says there’s not much of a market in the U.S., but the city may be able to sell it internationally.
Maintenance going better this year
Hall told city council the annual maintenance work is going better this year.
“The guys are doing great,” he said. “We’re on pace to be up and back early … and under budget.”
Hall says he’s requiring contractors to provide periodic cost breakdowns and working to improve communication with council.