Staff Writer

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP - - Ashtabula County Port Authority is beefing up it's security at Plant C after 2,000 pounds of copper bus bars was found missing last week.

The theft of the copper, used to ground electric wiring in the lower levels of the water pumping sections of the plant, was discovered by FirstEnergy employees on Thursday, said ACPA board president John Palo.

"FirstEnergy supervisors detected they had a poor ground on electric lines inside the plant. When they went in check it out, a large amount of copper bars were gone. The bus bar is four inches wide and 3/8th inches thick. It goes all around the plant interior," Palo said.

The missing copper material is valued at between $5,000 and $6,000 at today's recycling price, Palo said.

FirstEnergy and Palo alerted the county sheriff's office immediately when the theft was discovered. Sheriff William Johnson said deputies are checking out a list of the various contractors, who were in the plant area over the last months, and other leads.

Johnson said this latest theft may or may not be connected to the Aug. 26 arrest of two Geneva-on-the-Lake men linked to a separate theft incident at another nearby FirstEnergy plant on Lake Road. The pair face several felony charges and are out on bond pending a trial.

Area scrap yard dealers in late August were warned by the sheriff to report anyone attempting to sell this type of materials.

"We've changed the security code at the entrance gate to Plant C after this occurred. A perimeter surveillance camera system is also being installed and we've added more fencing," Palo said.

The ACPA board's main concerns are safety issues if intruders enter the property and wander around after dark on the grounds. Palo said FirstEnergy officials have been extremely helpful during this transition period.

ACPA bought Plant C earlier this year to save and convert it's water pumping operation. Seven Lake Road industries have depended the utility's Plant C for their water source.

Asbestos removal is almost completed inside the plant as the ACPA turns over the water pumping operation under an agreement with by Praxair and Lyondell Chemicals Inc.

Star Beacon Print Edition: 9/6/2006

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