By Garrett Hylton
The Wells Rural Electric Co. Board of Directors held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the cooperative’s new operations facility during its June 18 meeting in Wells.
The ceremony officially kicked off the construction phase of the project after nearly 24 months of planning.
Dirt work and construction started in earnest in July, with construction picking up this month. The facility is expected to be completed and in operation sometime next spring.
The new building will be adjacent to WREC’s headquarters in Wells. It will provide ample space to adequately and reliably deliver electricity to cooperative members for decades to come.
“As all things grow and develop, so has Wells Rural Electric Company,” said Scott Egbert, president of the WREC Board of Directors. “Today, electricity is a necessity for life, and our members are using way more than in the past. That trend is going to continue in the future. From our early beginnings with one small building, we’ve continued to expand to meet our members’ needs and now—not just because of what is happening today, but what is going to happen in the future— we’re breaking ground for this new building.”
WREC hired Cooperative Business Solutions—a company that specializes in working with cooperatives on facilities projects—to do a facility needs evaluation and help plan and build the new facility.
With a projected cost of $7.92 million, the price tag of the new building represents an important but necessary investment in the cooperative’s future.
Several local contractors submitted competitive bids for the project, and a significant portion of the costs will stay in local communities.
“We only work with electric cooperatives all over the country,” said Max Ott, vice president of CBS. “One of the things we do our best to do is to work with local subcontractors to keep projects as local as possible.”
The current operations center opened in 1974 when WREC served 1,601 accounts with fewer than 800 miles of energized line. Today, WREC serves
more than 6,000 accounts with 1,412 miles of energized line running through more than 10,000 square miles of service territory. The new facility will help the cooperative meet members’ growing demands while also allowing better work efficiencies and more convenient access for members by moving employees closer together. Most importantly, it will provide room to meet future demands.
“One of the great things about this is the ability for us to provide future careers,” said Wells City Manager Jolene Supp. “Any time in the community you can have kids graduate from high school and go off to college and then have careers waiting for them, it’s win-win for us. Wells Rural Electric is doing that right now. This building says, ‘We care about the community’. Adding the assessed value, adding the jobs, doing the development and providing the calling card for our community is really important to us, and we’re excited to see the ops center moving forward.”