PUCO investigating financial state of Youngstown Thermal
By Kalea Hall
Youngstown Thermal’s financial difficulty is now under review by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
“We have just been made aware of the financial troubles for Youngstown Thermal, and that is something we are actively investigating,” said Matt Schilling, spokesman for the commission. “At the end of the day, the PUCO is interested that utility customers receive safe and adequate service.”
Youngstown Thermal, a steam heat and cooling system provider to several downtown buildings, indicated to the commission that it is facing short-term financial problems.
Carl Avers, chief executive of the company, announced in a news release Monday that the company’s assets are on the market.
Tuesday, Avers disputed reports that employees have not been paid. He would not go into detail about the company’s financial status.
In a review of recent court filings, The Vindicator found in the Northern District Court of Ohio, Eastern Division, a lawsuit from February brought by EDF Energy Services LLC of Houston. EDF claims Youngstown Thermal breached its contract by not paying for natural gas it received from EDF. The company requested monetary damages of more than $600,000 from Youngstown Thermal. In May, Judge Benita Y. Pearson ordered Youngstown Thermal to pay $547,919 to EDF.
In Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, AT&T filed a lawsuit against Youngstown Thermal in March claiming the company caused $270,433 in damage to its property in April 2015 and did not repair the damage.
Youngstown Thermal’s steam-utility service is a district energy network. On the network are about 50 heating customers and four cooling customers in downtown. The Vindicator, the city and the Youngstown Business Incubator are some of its customers.
Youngstown Thermal recently lost a major client in Youngstown State University. It nearly lost the city last year, but the city postponed the move to another energy provider.
Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally spoke with PUCO on Tuesday about Youngstown Thermal.
“We have been generally keeping an eye on Youngstown Thermal,” McNally said. “We do have our concerns moving forward, but we are watching. We decided to just let some things play out. I think we are starting to watch things play out.”
Barb Ewing, chief executive of the incubator, stressed the importance for the main incubator building to have a viable, cost-effective source for heating and cooling.
“The cost associated with replacing both the heating and air conditioning is exorbitant,” Ewing said. “I can’t stress how important it is to keep the system viable.”