By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
The tight-knit “family” of employees at the Reid Gardner Power Station in Moapa gathered on Thursday morning to celebrate a momentous occasion. A plentiful breakfast table was laid out for the whole crew in honor of three long-time NV Energy employees, and seasoned veterans, of the coal-burning plant who were retiring.
Mike Fetherston of Overton was retiring after 43 years at the plant. Mark Kelch of Logandale was ending his career after 35 years. And Moapa resident Charlie Lindsay was hanging it up after 30 years at Reid Gardner.
The timing of the retirement of these three senior operators was not by coincidence. The plant is within just a few days of being turned over to a private contractor to begin demolition.
In March of last year, the last operating unit at Reid Gardner was decommissioned and disconnected from the power grid. Since that time, plant employees have been hard at work stripping down the facility of anything that could be removed and disposing of it. They have drained all oil and fluids, disconnected water and gas lines, removed all electric fixtures, lightbulbs, furniture, electronics, tools and other equipment. Everything but the base structure of the facility has been hauled away and the plant now stands dark and eerily silent.
All of that has been in preparation for demolition. NV Energy has recently selected a contractor to carry out the demolition work, though the details have not yet been announced. But within the next few weeks, the regional utility is expected to turn over the Reid Gardner site to that contractor and the roughly 18 month demolition process will begin.
After the site is turned over, only a small crew of NV Energy employees will remain on site to watch over the work of the contractor.
“We figured that it was just the right time to retire,” said Fetherston with his fellow retirees standing alongside of him during a brief interview with the PROGRESS.
“It is a good time to go out; right here at the end,” added Kelch.
Fetherston began working at Reid Gardner in November of 1974. He was there for the construction and start up of Unit 3 in the late 1970s, and Unit 4 in the mid 1980s.
“I was here for both the startup and shutdown on those two units,” Fetherston said. “And that is really something when you are talking about a coal generating plant which usually has such a long lifespan.”
In retirement, Fetherston plans to continue his small farming operation in Moapa Valley. But he also anticipates taking plenty of time to cheer on his grandchildren in their sports. That will require a little bit of travelling, he said.
He and his wife have purchased a home in Cedar City which is a good central spot to take care of those duties; both to the north and the south. It will also put him in a good place to enjoy some time hunting and fishing.
Kelch began his employment in July of 1982. He was on site when Unit 4 was started up. Though he said that he spent much of his career in working on the older units 1, 2 and 3.
Kelch’s wife Sandy has recently retired from a job as office manager for local dentist Dr. Lance Robertson. So the couple plans to take some time to do some travelling, get some work done around the house and spend time with their five grandchildren.
Lindsay started working at the plant in August of 1987. He said that he has enjoyed his years of work at the plant and will miss it.
“It was a new challenge every day; never the same thing twice,” he said. “That is what made it enjoyable to come day after day.”
Lindsay said that his goal in retirement is just to spend time playing and having a good time.
“I’m not planning on going anywhere,” he said.
He does plan to continue to do volunteer work at the Moapa Fire Station #72 where he has been serving for many years.