New Operations Center Frequently Asked Questions
Providing safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity has always been the top priority for Wells Rural Electric Company. We are excited to announce plans for construction of a new Operations Center which will enable us to continue providing the level of service you have come to expect well into the future. Answers to common questions follow:
Why does WREC need a new Operations Center?
Quite simply, we have outgrown our current facilities.
So much has changed since the Diesel Shed and Service Center were constructed. The building now used by our metering department was originally built in 1948 to house diesel generators. Scars from the anchor bolts and diesel tanks can still be seen on the floor. The Service Center that houses the line crew and mechanic was built in 1975.
The equipment we use now just barely fits inside. In fact, the ramps for the vehicle lift our mechanic uses had to be cut so the door could be closed and are now half inside and half outside. Larger and more powerful equipment enables your employees to maximize their productivity and efficiency. That saves you money. However, that equipment needs secure storage and regular maintenance to protect your investment.
Why does WREC need such large equipment?
When the existing Service Center was constructed 44 years ago, WREC served 1,601 members in Wendover, Wells and the surrounding valleys with 611 miles of power lines. West Wendover was known as “Stateline” because it had just the Stateline gas station and cafe. WREC began serving Carlin in 1979 and Pine Valley in 1986. We now serve 6,162 accounts and maintain 1,412 miles of line spread over 10,552 square miles. Maintaining that system takes a lot of personnel and equipment.
How much is the new building going cost?
The design team has diligently studied WREC’s current and future operational needs. They have carefully evaluated the proposed site, studied local building codes and researched different types of buildings. They are recommending a pre-designed steel frame building. The projected total cost including permits, site improvements, utilities, construction, materials, driveways, sidewalks, fencing and security is $7.92 million.
How will the new facility affect my bill?
Your Board of Directors approved the new Operations Center on the stipulation the that the building would be “rate-neutral” for members. We do not expect construction of the new building to affect member rates. The Board has asked cooperative employees to tighten their belts and commit to significant budget reductions for items that do not affect reliability.
It is also important to note that rate increases are driven primarily by increases in the cost of wholesale electricity WREC purchases from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), whose rates have historically increased every two years. BPA has not finalized their current rate case.
How is WREC paying for the new building?
Low interest rates make this a great time to invest in a new building. WREC has been building its financial reserves but will borrow the rest of the money for construction. That loan will be repaid at a low fixed interest rate as future members benefit from the building over the next 30 years.
That seems like a lot of money!
It does seem like a lot of money but it’s an investment for the future. The existing buildings have served you well for decades. We expect the new building to provide excellent service for many years to come. For comparison, the new elementary school in West Wendover cost $27.7 million. Remodeling the old elementary school into a middle school cost $7.4 million.
What are the benefits to my service?
The new building will protect the equipment WREC’s employees depend on to provide safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity so that it is always ready at a moment’s notice to meet your needs or respond to an outage. More importantly, consolidating multiple functions under one roof and connecting that facility to the headquarters building will improve member access, security efficiency and work flows as well as reduce response times.
Where will the facility be located?
The new Operations Center will be constructed adjacent to WREC’s existing headquarters building on Humboldt Avenue in Wells.
Why was the site chosen?
Rather than spend money for equipment for each area, WREC locates critical pieces of equipment centrally and dispatches it as needed. Housing this equipment in Wells puts that equipment within an hour of 95% of our members.
In addition, when the Board of Directors authorized construction of our headquarters building in 1984, they very wisely chose a location that would accommodate future growth. WREC has owned the property for the new building for about 35 years.
What other options were considered?
WREC considered staying in the existing facilities but the demands of providing the best possible service require additional space. WREC also considered remodeling the existing building. Unfortunately, expanding the current buildings to meet our needs would be expensive as well. In addition, remodeling would require WREC to bring the old buildings up to new building codes which would increase the costs substantially. Renovating the existing buildings would also displace all of our current operational functions during construction.
When will construction begin?
The new building was announced by the Board of Directors on April 11. Bid documents will be released to contractors at about the same time. A ground-breaking ceremony is being planned this summer. Construction should begin by August so that the building can be closed-in allowing interior work to continue through the winter. The new building should be ready for service in the spring of 2020.
Which employees will be located in the new building?
Employees that are currently working in the diesel shed, the truck shed, the warehouse and the Service Center will be located together in the new Operations Center. Those employees include the line crew and mechanic, as well as warehouse, engineering, metering, communications and electrician personnel.
What will happen to the existing buildings?
Once all of the inventory, equipment and personnel have been relocated to the new Operations Center, the existing buildings will be repurposed, sold or leased. The brown brick building on Lake Avenue that is now home to the highway patrol and the justice court served as WREC’s office from 1967 to 1986. New occupants moved in just months after WREC moved to the office on Humboldt Avenue.