MANCHESTER, Ohio – The DP&L Transition Center hosted an open house on Wednesday, in a community with a lot of questions.
The Transition Center is an effort to help the staff of the closing J.M. Stuart and Killen power stations operated by Dayton Power and Light in Adams County.
“We’re bringing our services to them and giving them our resources, including training, application assistance, resume assistance or unemployment,” said Dwayne Alexander with Ohio Means Jobs Adams and Brown County. “We’re here for them.”
Alexander said some of the services offered include skills workshops or providing computers to help with job searching.
“They could possibly be eligible for training up to an associate’s degree,” Alexander said. “Of course, there are requirements and different things like that. But we offer things to help them get back to work as quickly as possible.”
As far as DP&L workers’ options as the original June closing date approaches, Alexander said they will have to keep their options open.
“They have to make sure to file unemployment and we ask them to go to Ohio Means Jobs to do an interest profile, which can show them what their next step in their occupation may be,” Alexander said. “We can pay for them to drive to the trainer and back and pay for any testing. It must be an “in-demand job deemed in-demand by Ohio Means Jobs. They must be able to provide us with resources and job leads within 40 miles of their ZIP code. We can then work with them to get them training or maybe a work experience. We’re all about getting them educated and trying to place them.”
Several educational centers were at the Transition Center for the open house – Southern Hills Career and Technical Center, Maysville Community and Technical College, Scioto County Career and Technical Center, Shawnee State University, the Kentucky Career Center and the Ohio Office of Unemployment were all on hand with flyers and advice.
Flyers and advice, however, aren’t going to be enough for the village of Manchester.
Manchester Village Council Member Christine Henderson said cuts have already been made in adjustment for these closures.
“We’ll probably lose a lot of our families and students in the county,” Henderson said. “The local economy will suffer with less people and less people in our school system. It’s sad. It’s just a no-win situation right now.”
Henderson said the village of Manchester and the county wants DP&L employees to know they stand with them.
“We hear everything and we’re behind you. We support you,” Henderson said. “We need to be compassionate and we need to care about one another.”
One of the employees affected is Vice President of the Utility Workers Union of America John Arnett.
“We’re having a hard time getting any answers from the company,” Arnett said. “We know there are people trying to buy the plants, but we haven’t gotten much information on the status of those or why they won’t sell them.”
Arnett, who has worked with DP&L for 14 years, said the union is trying to work out a contract with DP&L.
A hypothetical contract, according to Arnett, would ideally offer employees an opportunity to get another job at a different station in the company.
“Right now jobs are real shy up north,” Arnett said. “We’re trying to get employees eligible to go up there and work.”
Arnett said appropriate severance pay is another thing the union has been pushing for.
“Some of these guys have worked here for 40 years,” Arnett said. “They’re not wanting to give them much of anything in the way of a fair severance.”
Arnett said he is more worried about the community than he is himself.
“I know I’ll be able to find another job,” Arnett said. “We’ll be fine as far as us, but I’m more concerned about my kids. They go to school in Manchester. Are we doing our kids a disservice by staying here and not moving? What are we going to do about that? People say ‘Oh, just move’ but it’s not that easy when you have young kids. This place is our home.”
Arnett said employees haven’t received a date as far as when the plants will be closing. He also said that once they cease electric operations, there will still be work that needs to be done. And he believes locals should be doing that work.
“Don’t bring in people from all over, which is what they’re planning on doing,” Arnett said. “They’ll want to bring in contractors who don’t have any ties to the area, do the work for five or so years with the ash ponds and that type of thing. Someone comes in from somewhere else, they’re more apt to flush stuff in the river. I’m living here, I fish in that river. We think the people in the community should be doing this stuff.”
The main problem held by many in the community are unanswered questions. An uncertain future raises concerns throughout the community of Manchester.
“Are they going to decommission the plants,” Arnett said. “Or are they just going to leave a five-stack graveyard in the middle of the county?”
As of press time these questions, and many others remain unanswered.
According to Alexander, the Transition Center will be there for employees as these questions reveal clearer answers.
“This center will be here as long as it’s going to be utilized,” Alexander with OMJ Adams and Brown said. “We brought this to them so they don’t have far to go and they can get all the resources they need for their benefit.”