Tri-State Generation and Transmission is currently tearing down the Nucla Station, the coal plant that has been in existence on the San Miguel River since the 1950s. The process is no doubt hard for some to witness, since many from Norwood and Nucla earned their livelihoods at the coal plant, while building friendships and careers. Nucla Mayor Pro-Tem Paula Brown, who also works for the Naturita-Nucla Chamber of Commerce, said she felt like people do get emotionally attached to old buildings. She’s not sure of what, if anything, could have been done to salvage the plant.
“I don’t really know too much about the process they went through about how they decided to abandon it or leave it,” she told The Norwood Post.
Brown said safety is always a concern in buildings like that, and said it would take a very specific business to fit into a facility that large.
Brown was inside the Nucla Station years ago, and she remembers the huge metal shell and office spaces inside. She said heating and cooling would likely be challenging for a new company aiming to work out of the structure.
The plant officially shut down in the fall. The last of the employees finished their careers in September. But could the plant building have been reinvented to be anything else? A grain and seed company? A fiber optic station for internet?
Brown told The Norwood Post she spent eight years on the West End Public Schools board. She said she’s discussed the question of “What do we do with old buildings we aren’t using anymore?” many times and learned that there is a fine line, particularly because buildings have a useful life expectancy.
“I am assuming that is part of the reason the plant is being torn down,” she said. “Maybe there are usable materials, but the building itself — How long was it expected to last before having to put a ton of money into it?”
She said she knows people are nostalgic about old buildings, mostly because of the good memories that took place inside them.
“I know that from the school board. Sometimes it can’t be feasible,” she said. “There is so much money to maintain, you almost can’t afford to do it.”
But, another building Brown has talked about over the years — the old Nucla school house, on Main Street, which has sat empty — now has a new occupant. In the past, Brown and others have had conversations on what to do with it: Repurpose it? Tear it down? Use it?
Now, there is a sewing operation working inside it.
“It seems like a fairly large production,” Brown said. “They’re doing everything from backpacks to PPE (personal protective equipment). They seem to be doing quite well. The old gym is a huge (fabric) cutting room.”
Last week, Deana Sheriff told Norwood trustees at the town’s monthly meeting that at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the small home-based sewing company received a large contract to manufacture 1 million masks.
The West End Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC) worked closely with the company to get them into the facility, which has enough space to handle a large cutting table and 25 sewing machines. It took support from WEEDC to get the company into the place because of the old electric and plumbing.
Now, it looks like the sewing business may call the school home for a while. WEEDC is helping the company attain government contracting status, so it can continue their operations “long into the future.”