COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The fate of the Martin Drake Power Plant is up in the air.
People from all over El Paso County voiced their concerns at a panel discussion Thursday.
Leslie Weise wants to open a business in Colorado Springs. The fire at the Drake Power Plant on May 5 is one she will not forget.
"I happen to be inside my sister's building that morning and was there to see the fear of everyone and all the employees. There is a very serious safety risk keeping that plant open in the middle of the city," she said.
Sam Macias is a customer of Colorado Springs Utilities. He said the power plant needs to close permanently and Colorado Springs Utilities should use a different source of energy.
"Let's close it down and move to cleaner sources like natural gas and renewable energy like solar and wind," he said.
Dan Malinaric is managing director of the Colorado Springs Operations at Atmel Corporation, a semiconductor manufacturing company. He was also part of the panel. He said since June 1 electric rates went up 17 percent because of the Drake Power Plant closing.
Colorado Springs Utilities board member Andy Pico said closing down the plant permanently would be costly.
"To build a new power plant we're talking about half a billion dollars to build a new plant at some place to pick up that kind of generation capacity you need," he said.
Dick Standaert lives in Colorado Springs. He said even though the Drake Power Plant is damaged, it doesn't make it useless.
"It maintains our electricity rates as low as possible and that's essential to continue growth in Colorado Springs and maintain low and acceptable rates," he said.
Colorado Springs Utilities said it has made progress in restoring the plant. Unit 5, 6, and 7 were all damaged. Unit 6 is expected to be online again by the end of July. Crews are currently testing it, and could test its full capacity as soon as next week.
Unit 7 is expected to be online again by this fall. Once unit 6 is back online, the rates are expected to go down by 30 percent. When unit 7 is back online, it is expected to go down by an additional 40 to 50 percent.
Another public discussion will happen on June 26 at City Hall.