Fourteen months after a contentious vote by the Independence City Council on the contract, demolition for the Missouri City power plant is nearly half complete.

A council majority last year awarded the contract for sale, demolition and remediation of Missouri City to Environmental Operations for $9.765 million, more than twice the bid of $4.25 million from the other finalist.

The coal-fired plant ceased production in 2015, something the city had planned, but the decision to tear it down was something a couple council members thought could wait at least few months, given other expensive projects on the table.

The plant sits on 87 acres in Clay County along the Missouri River and began operating in 1954. The city bought it in 1979 following a fire and returned it to operation in 1982. From 1998 until it ceased generation, the plant operated mainly to meet Independence Power & Light's summer seasonal peak loads.

Remediation work for asbestos and other hazardous materials is complete, and all communication and metering equipment, two dismantled generators and all wiring have been removed, Assistant City Manager Mark Randall reported Monday to the council.

Half of the bag house – an air pollution control device and dust collector – has been dismantled, and the crane to demolish the main building is being assembled.

Workers will use explosives to bring down the tall stack, though a date for that has not been scheduled – pending approval by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

All told, the city's project supervisor estimates that demolition is about 43 percent complete, Randall said.

Last summer, the Public Utilities Advisory Board did not recommend the Environmental Operations contract, saying that city staff had not shown enough to justify the higher contract. Responding to a series of a questions from the PUAB, the council majority said evaluations and a recommendation from IPL staff, which believed the EOI possessed more brownfield site experience and had a stronger financial and bonding capacity, guided the council's directive to IPL. It chose not to attempt continued negotiations with the second firm as well due to time and expense.

The council majority also said if the project appeared to some as too urgent, it was a chance to get rid of a “distressed asset without undue delay” at still a far less price than an engineer's demolition estimate of $17 million.

Council Member Scott Roberson asked the council at that point to consider postponing the vote until after the master energy plan had been completed – that was done two weeks ago – or at least the management audit that was released later in the summer. Roberson reasoned that the looming decisions on the likely retirement of the Blue Valley plant and the utility “smart meters” were more pressing. Only Karen DeLuccie supported Roberson's motions, and she has maintained her disapproval of the taking the higher bid on the Missouri City contract.

Responding to her question Monday, Randall said the price for the demolition project won't go higher than the contract, and there will be no change orders.

The city has paid more than $4.9 million thus far – slightly more than half – but City Manager Zach Walker cautioned against making a straight proportion with 43 percent complete. More of the remaining work isn't as costly as some of the earlier steps such as asbestos removal, which was nearly $2.2 million.