CROWN POINT — The Lake County Solid Waste Management District board ruled Thursday night that the developer of a proposed trash-to-ethanol plant near Schneider was in breach of contract, leaving the fate of the project in doubt.

After Powers Energy CEO Earl Powers announced yet another financing deal, the board was mulling whether to give Powers more time to secure financing or to cut ties. Powers left the Lake County Government Center’s auditorium with a few business partners, presumably to discuss their options. About five minutes later, someone notified the board that Powers was on his way back to Evansville.

That move gave board members little choice but to serve Powers with the breach of contract notice. Powers has 60 days to challenge the ruling.

Board member Rick Ryfa, who is a Griffith town councilman, and others were stunned by Powers’ departure.

“It was disrespectful to the board members, particularly the ones who’ve stoody by him all these years,” Ryfa said.

Board vice chairman George Jerome, also a Griffith councilman, said the board was seriously considering a revised agreement that would have given Powers 90 days to secure financing.

“The timeline would have been pretty strict, but once he displayed that petulance (by leaving) it guaranteed (the breach of contract) option,” Jerome said.

Early in the nearly three-hour meeting, Powers informed the board that a bond sale by hedge fund manager Hugo Cadena did not come through, so he had come to an equity and debt-financing arrangement with Raymond James and Associates — what he estimated was his 12th attempt at financing since contracting with the county in 2008.

Members of the board and the public asked pointed questions of Powers and his chief operating officer, Ken Bosar, about when Raymond James must come up with the $300 million in financing.

Powers and Bosar said Raymond James would prefer garbage commitments from municipalities — totaling 2,000 tons of waste per day — by the end of March.

Schererville Town Councilman Hal Slager was frustrated with the request that municipalities should pony up commitments with such a fast turnaround.

“Our interest here is unloading garbage,” Slager said. “The idea that we can’t participate if we don’t get it done by the end of the month is garbage.”

Powers clarified that municipalities would have until the opening of the plant to commit, and he would sell the ethanol to an oil company.

source: posttrib.suntimes

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