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Date set for demolition of Higgins Power Plant

The facility was retired in 1996. Soon it will no longer block the view of north Tampa Bay.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published October 10, 2006


OLDSMAR - The skyline is going to change, and Sandy Kadlec can't wait.

A Safety Harbor resident since 1970, Kadlec looks forward to a more natural, scenic view on her morning bike rides on Bayshore Boulevard.

And now she has a better idea of when she'll get it: just after 8 a.m. on Oct. 20.

The on-again, off-again implosion of Progress Energy's obsolete A.W. Higgins Power Plant has been rescheduled for that hour and date, when the summertime demand for electricity should have subsided.

Kadlec, a semiretired and part-time cashier at Publix, couldn't be happier.

"It's just kind of a blight right there," she said.

The old plant is on Booth Point at the north end of Tampa Bay in Oldsmar but is clearly visible from parts of Safety Harbor and from Clearwater's Courtney Campbell Parkway.

The plant, which sits on 5 of the site's 142 acres hasn't been used since 1993 and was officially retired in 1996.

Originally, the City Council was told by Progress Energy representatives that the building would be imploded in late June or early July. However, the tentative date kept getting pushed back.

There is a smaller power plant on the site being used to generate power as needed. That plant will be out of use on the day of the Higgins plant implosion, said Progress Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs.

The demolition was held off until cooler weather, when the smaller plant wouldn't be needed to generate power for air-conditioning.

"During the summer we didn't want to have reliability issues," Jacobs said. "We wanted to have that plant running."

Progress Energy will send out 600 letters to residents close to the plant and along the main roads leading to the plant the weekend before the implosion to notify them about what to expect during it. No residents will have to be evacuated from their homes, Jacobs said. There will be a safety perimeter of 2,000 feet on land and water.

No one will be allowed to visit the plant site any time before or after the implosion, Jacobs said.

On the day of the implosion, Philippe Park, which has a prime view of the building, will open at 6:30 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than usual, Jacobs said. However, she warned the park's parking is limited.

Dismantling the building will cost $1.2-million, but the market for scrap metal is at historic highs, Jacobs said. The 64,000-square-foot power plant has 6,000 tons of metal to sell.

Cleanup of asbestos and other hazardous materials was complete in July, Jacobs said. The 5 acres the building sits on will serve as an environmental buffer zone.

As for the demolition, less than 75 pounds of explosives will be used to implode the building by Controlled Demolition Inc., of Maryland, Jacobs said. It will take eight to 10 seconds from the first of five blasts until the building is on the ground. Cleanup will be complete by the end of the year.

Kadlec said she may ask for a day off work just to see the spectacle.

A.W. HIGGINS POWER PLANT

HISTORY: The plant was completed in the early 1950s at a cost of $20-million. At the beginning of its construction, A.W. Higgins, then the president of Florida Power Corp., the utility that built the plant, described it as "one of the most modern plants in the world."

LOCATION: Booth Point, at the northern end of Tampa Bay.

PROPERTY SIZE: 142 acres.

BUILDING SIZE: 64,000 square feet.

BUILDING HEIGHT: 120 feet.

ENERGY SOURCE: Fuel oil or natural gas.

PRODUCTION: 138 megawatts - enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.

STAFF, HISTORICALLY: 45 to 50.

STAFF, CURRENTLY: 3.

[Last modified October 9, 2006, 21:04:48]


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