After nine years of planning and three years of construction plagued by delays, the Davis County waste-to-energy plant will officially go into commercial operation Sunday.

Members of the Davis County Solid Waste Management and Energy Recovery Special Service District board approved a contract Wednesday night to accept the plant located in Layton from the contractor, Davis County Construction Co. The contractor, an arm of Belgium-based Katy-Seghers Inc., will continue to staff the plant while the district will assume total operating control.That change will mean, among other things, that the district will be begin to reap profits from the steam it produces and sells to Hill Air Force Base.

As with most of the decisions associated with the garbage-burning plant, the vote to approve the new contract was not without dissension. Layton Mayor Richard McKenzie, while voting for the contract, said he was displeased with the way the contractor has done business, particularly a practice of seeking insurers to underbid local insurance carriers.

"You can't pin the rascals down. The have wiggled out of everything we have done with them," McKenzie said.

Farmington Mayor Robert Arbuckle, the only dissenting vote, said he opposed the contract because it did not include a cut-off date for all outstanding construction bills.

But the district's attorney, Phillip Holm, said the agreement along with original operating contract protects the district.

"As far as your risk, you have no additional liability. I don't think it is going to go that way," Holm said. "To renegotiate the contract at this point is an impracticality."

The move to commercial operation comes after the district has received word that the State Bureau of Air Quality will allow the plant to emit higher levels of nitrogen oxides that contributes to smog. The plant was able to operate only one furnace under the old limits.

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Even though the plant will be accepted, the contract mandates that the contractor adjust the twin furnaces on the plant to correct a slagging problem that leads to uneven burning of trash. If the contractor can't correct the problem by increasing air intake into the furnaces an independent engineer can approve the installation of additional equipment during a three-week shut down, Board Chairman J.B. Dewell said.

The slagging problem at the plant parallels those experienced at many of the 110 burn plants in operation in the nation. Critics said the plants, a European import, are not designed for the large amount of plastics present in the American waste stream.

The contract also make exceptions for things the contractor and district "have agreed to disagree on." Those items include expense for landscaping and a grappling crane which the district says does not meet specifications.

The district is also withholding $10,245 for the contractor to complete a fence, replace a steam turbine and install some smoke detectors.

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