HINSDALE, N.H. -- Southern Vermont towns won't be the only ones affected by the closure of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt.
Hinsdale and Chesterfield both have numerous residents who make a living at the nuclear power plant and those men and women will be unemployed when its owner, Entergy, shuts it down sometime in late 2014. Entergy announced the decision on Twitter shortly before 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
The plant has 630 employees, 217 of whom live in New Hampshire.
Tammy-Jean Akeley, the town clerk and tax collector in Hinsdale, said the closure will be detrimental to the citizens of the town, who are already struggling in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
"It's going to be devastating. We haven't seen the fallout yet, but it's going to happen," she said.
Akeley, a former Yankee employee of 10 years, has noticed many people are having difficulty paying their taxes and said several houses have been seized by banks. The shutdown will just make this situation worse, she said.
"We're hurting already and this is just going to push it to the next step," she said, adding that her sister and brother-in-law work as contractors at the plant. "Everyone's kind of in shellshock right now."
What is even more crippling to Yankee's current employees is what Akeley called a "freeze." She said all workers are welcome to leave the power plant at any time but cannot apply for other jobs within Entergy, which is headquartered in Louisiana. This prevents employees from sending out their resumes in preparation of having to take their skill-sets somewhere else.
Michael Darcy, chairman of the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen, echoed Akeley's thoughts and fears that the shutdown might drive people out of Hinsdale because such a big source of employment is gone. He said he doesn't have any friends who work at the Yankee but he knows several people in his community do.
Chesterfield Town Administrator Rick Carrier told the Reformer it is too early to tell what sort of effect this will have on the town but he knows many will be out of a job. Chesterfield, like Hinsdale, benefits from Yankee through money the power plant contributes to the towns' offices of emergency management. Carrier said Yankee gives money to the state, which filters back to the towns.
But he said the money lost for emergency management "pales in comparison to what (Yankee employees) have to deal with."
Spofford Fire Chief Gordon Rudolph said his department also will go without the finances Yankee bestowed upon it. He said the plant has donated countless sums of money to specially train firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
"(Yankee has) really stepped up for many, many years, helping us with training," he said. "They have always been involved with the fire prevention program."
Rudolph also said Yankee often sent a check "out of the blue" for hundreds of dollars to help with the department's annual pancake breakfast. He said the closure will have a negative impact on his crew, but probably not as much as the fire departments of Brattleboro, Vernon and Guilford, Vt.
He said he is pretty sure he also will lose two of his volunteers, who work for Yankee and likely will follow the jobs elsewhere. He said one of them already has asked for a reference for a job at Hoover Dam in Arizona.
Akeley and Darcy also said several non-profit organizations in the area will lose funds when Yankee is closed for good.
Bill Mohl, the president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities said Tuesday afternoon the decision to close Yankee was made during a board of directors meeting Sunday night.
"I can personally tell you that this was an agonizing decision," said Mohl.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.