City council stallssteam plant action

by Bei Hu

In hopes of talking further with the University about its steam plant plans, the Minneapolis City Council decided Friday to postpone voting on a proposed zoning code amendment until September.
If passed, the amendment might bar the University from renovating its coal-fired steam plant on the Mississippi River. Although City Council member Joan Campbell has led a campaign against the University’s plan to renovate its steam plant, she made Friday’s announcement.
Campbell said she has been assured by sources knowledgeable about the University that its officials “do want to continue discussions about the issue and may have broken the gridlock.”
The city began negotiating with the University on the steam plant issue in 1992. The talks came to a deadlock when the University said it wouldn’t build an off-river facility unless another organization found an unpolluted site for a new steam plant, paid for relocation costs and kept up the old steam plants grounds.
Although Campbell is optimistic about future negotiations, University Associate Vice President Roger Paschke said the University has not changed its stance on steam plant issues. “The University’s position is what it has been for some time,” he said.
In a recent letter to the city council, Paschke said, Board of Regents Chairman Thomas Reagan stated that the University will talk with the council if the preconditions the University requested before are discussed.
In the past, Campbell has cited these preconditions more than once as evidence of the University’s insincerity. She introduced the zoning code amendment to the City Council in March, after the Board of Regents approved the University administration’s steam plant renovation plan.
Campbell said she has finally gained the support of nine council members, which is enough to pass changes to zoning codes and stop the University from renovating its southeast steam plant.
But she said Friday, “I think there is room for movement on both sides. That is what we are giving ourselves some time for.”