HALLSVILLE — A philanthropic group is set to host community input meetings next week in Hallsville and Marshall to discuss the local impacts of AEP/SWEPCO’s closure of Pirkey Power Plant and the resulting closure of the Sabine Mining Company.

Just Transition Fund, a non-political organization that helps communities find resources and opportunities after the closure of local coal assets, will host the meetings next week that will also include key community leaders such as Hallsville Mayor Jesse Casey, Marshall Mayor Amy Ware, Marshall Economic Development Company Executive Director Rush Harris, Hallsville ISD Superintendent John Martin and Marshall ISD Superintendent Richele Langley, along with others.

Also in attendance at the meetings will be Mark Robinson of AEP/SWEPCO and Sabine Mining Company’s Andy Hawbaker.

“We are not hired by AEP/SWEPCO but we are a philanthropic organization that provides technical assistance in communities that are going to lose coal assets,” Just Transition Fund Senior Fellow Cindy Winland said on Wednesday.

Winland and her colleague Emily Rhodes will be in attendance at the meetings that will also be broadcast live on Facebook by AEP/SWEPCO.

The meetings are set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday at Hallsville’s Gold Hall Community Center, located at 101 Elm Street. The Marshall meetings will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Marshall Convention Center, located at 2501 East End Blvd South.

All meetings will be held in English and Spanish.

Those who can’t make the meeting are encouraged to watch them on Facebook live or to fill out a short survey at bit.ly/PirkeySurvey

“We work free of charge,” Winland said. “AEP had contacted us and wanted to learn more about how to conduct an action plan, along with the local schools and MEDCO, regarding the upcoming closures of the Pirkey Power Plant and Sabine Mining Company.”

Winland said her group facilitates discussions between the different community entities and industries and helps find resources and federal funding following the closure of local coal assets in the community.

The upcoming meetings are designed to have community members voice their concerns and Winland said she expects future meetings to also take place in Tatum later this fall.

“Anyone in the public is welcome to attend the meetings,” she said. “We have already formed a Pirkey Transition Task Force but these meetings are for sharing information and facts we know about the impact to come, on the tax base, the schools and we are interested in what people are most concerned about or what they see as opportunities.”

MEDCO’s Harris said his organization has been working with AEP/SWEPCO and others on the task force for months to mitigate the impact of the two sites’ upcoming closures.

“AEP Swepco asked MEDCO to join a community-based steering committee last May,” Harris said. “The group includes representation from many groups including the county, city, chamber, colleges, and ISDs. Just Transition Fund was asked by AEP to play a supportive role in the transition of the workforce and the tax base due to the planned closure of H.W. Pirkey Power Plant in the third quarter of 2023. The effects of the transition will be felt regionally. The process the steering committee is going through now is to help mitigate the change and provide information to employees and the community. Once we know the potential impacts on the tax base and employment, both regionally and locally, we’ll have a better understanding of what our organization and the steering committee group as a whole, can do to maintain and grow the economic base.”

Winland said based on the information and feedback gathered during the upcoming meetings, action plans will begin to be formed.

“We’d like to start putting together an action plan to mitigate the impacts and we want to help the community to look for funding,” Winland said. “We have helped other groups and communities across the country and we can share those ideas and things they did that were successful.”

These are the first public meetings in the area regarding the upcoming closure of Pirkey Power Plant and Sabine Mining Company.

The representatives from both companies will be on hand to discuss the impact and the plans for both sites after closure.

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