Small Missouri Town Copes with Plant Closing

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OSAGE COUNTY - Residents and business owners in small town Chamois remain optimistic for the future after their power plant closes Monday.

The Osage County town of about 300 people recognize the financial impact the plant closing will have.

"It's been a stabilizing force I guess in the community with regard to jobs and the economy," said Heritage Bank branch manager Rhonda Mitchem.

Mitchem has been in Chamois for 20 years and works at the town's only bank. She's seen the community recover from hard times before.

"We were really really hit in '93 and '95 with flood and there was kind of a sense that we were basically dead," said Mitchem. "Chamois has historically picked itself by its boot straps and moved on."

But with the plant closing, it presents a different type of crisis.

"The main thing is the jobs, the economic factor," said Mitchem.

Chamois city clerk Larry Backes feels the same.

 "There were good jobs and that's what we're going to miss the most," said Backes.

One thing the town can hold on to is its school. Osage County R-1 School District principal Brad Strobel said despite rumors, the school is not closing with the plant.

"It's just a typical small rural school," said Strobel. "It brings the community together and maybe we need to do that even more when the plant closes."

Travis Koenigsfeld runs the MFA co-op in Chamois and said his business will feel the impact of the plant closing.

"They came to us because we were the closest agricultural commodity in the area," said Koeningsfeld. "That revenue, as they go out and try to find jobs in other areas, may go with it."

The residents are working to try and get new business and new faces in Chamois.

Mitchem said community members have worked with Central Missouri Community Action, a non-profit organization that helps communities develop business plans for positive economic growth, to specify Chamois' strengths and needs in the future.

"Change is not always a real easy thing to accept but I think we're going to have to look at some change in how we look at how we look and our community," said Mitchem.

"The plan is to keep moving forward, we're not going to sit still."

The 66-megawatt coal Chamois Power Plant is owned by the Central Electric Power Cooperative. The cooperative decided back in March to close the plant due the high running cost. The company cited $3 million were needed for railroad track improvements, $14 million to comply with EPA regulations, and 92% increase in fuel costs.