Citrus County Commissioner Joe Meek calls Crystal River Nuclear Plant closing "a major blow"

7:01 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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 PDF Document: PR Reaction to Crystal River Nuclear Plant to be retired

Crystal River, Florida -- Citrus County takes another hard hit from Progress/Duke Energy as the company announces it will close the Crystal River Nuclear Plant. 

The energy company is already suing the county for $15 million in disputed property taxes for last year and company officials have already told county leaders they will not pay that assessment again this year.

READ: Progress Energy challenges valuation and tax bill

Progress/Duke Energy makes up 26 percent of Citrus County's tax base. The plant's closing means nearly 1,200 jobs, half of those full time jobs will be almost immediately eliminated impacting families, businesses and stripping the county of millions of dollars in property taxes.

"Losing all that business is really, really scary," says Emily Zastrow. 

She's manages her family's waterfront restaurant Crackers Bar and Grill that has seen a lot of its clientele over the last 27 years from the nearby Crystal River Nuclear Plant.

"Everyday they come through here eat lunch and for the dinner rush for the crews stay overnight. We get a lot of business from them," Emily says.

Progress/Duke officials say they'll keep a couple hundred workers around to help decommission the plant. The others, they say, will be transferred or re-trained if possible.

"I would hate to see friends I've known entire life, been born and raised here, have to move away, but it happens," Emily says. "People go where the work is. It's sad."

"That's a big deal to lose 600 jobs high paying jobs. These are families who contribute to our economy our community. It's a major blow to us," says Citrus County Commission Chairman Joe Meek. 

Meek says Duke Energy's refusal to pay $17 million in property taxes last year and the plant's decommission cost the county another $9 million in taxes this year meaning Citrus County has to diversify its economy.

"To work with trying to grow our medical business, tourism, light and manufacturing and computer- and technology-based businesses. This highlights the necessity for us to do that," Meek says.

Meanwhile, Representative Mike Fasano is calling for Duke to reimburse customers of the $1.3 billion they spent on fixing the broken nuclear reactor -- the same one the company is shutting down.

"They should be refunded. Customers put tout $1.3 billion but that's not going to happen. These companies get away with a lot; the Public Service Commission lets them get away with a lot. Sadly, so does the Florida legislature. Now it's the customer, the rate payer, who is on the hook paying for something they will never see a benefit from," Fasano argues.

Progress/Duke Energy spokesperson says customers will see some reimbursement from an $835 million insurance settlement the company agreed to from NEIL. 

"In agreeing to this mitigation proposal we will get that money and refund it to customers," says Mike Hughes with Progress/Duke Energy.

County leaders are now faced with the challenge of a new budget for the next fiscal year -- a budget that has $26 million less. 

Where will the money come from? 

Commissioner Meek says right now everything is on the table from higher property taxes to added service fees.

"I'm not advocating for tax hikes or new ways to tax residents. We are looking for ways to diversify our revenue source and not be so reliant on ad valorem property taxes."

READ: Commissioner Joe Meek statement on retiring of Crystal River Nuclear Plant

Follow 10 News Reporter Isabel Mascarenas on twitter @IzzyMascarenas

Isabel Mascarenas

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