Imagine living in 1905. Downtown Elk Point would have been a bustling little town. It had only been around 100 years since the Lewis & Clark Expedition set up camp along the nearby Missouri River. A large brick building had just been erected at the corner of Main and Franklin streets. The Rural Electric Act, allowing the electrification of rural America, would not become law for 31 years. It wasn’t until 1937 that the Union County Electric Cooperative was founded.
This large 1905 brick building would later become the headquarters of Union County Electric. It has served us well over the past 50 years. As you can imagine, what we need today is different from what it was in the 1970s, much less than what the building was originally designed for almost 120 years ago .
Over the past few years, the Board and I have spent time prioritizing our needs and what we would like to meet our current and future needs. The priorities we have set for our establishment, in no particular order:
• Improve safety and working conditions;
• Provide better access to members, guests and deliveries;
• Improve energy efficiency;
• Take advantage of low interest rates; and
• Provide space for all equipment, materials and personnel in one place.
Last year we had the opportunity to purchase 5.3 acres of land, one mile south of Elk Point. It became the first piece of the puzzle for updating our facilities. Contractors have started construction. The new head office will be a 17,100 square foot building and will house all of our equipment, materials and offices. With this project, we will be able to address the five priorities we have identified and the dozens of specific issues that make up the list of priorities.
The new headquarters takes into account the increasing size of the equipment and the amount of material that our crews use. We are enhancing our physical security and cybersecurity capabilities at this facility. We will have easier access for our members with a handicap accessible building making it easier for them to visit with us about their needs. Our work environment will be improved for our employees by having more natural light and larger ergonomic workspaces. Just moving from a 120-year-old building will improve our energy efficiency, but we go even further by choosing energy-efficient equipment and materials.
Finally, we had access to long-term financing at favorable interest rates. By using a combination of private financing and low-interest federal loans, we were able to accelerate our construction schedule and lock in interest rates as a hedge against rising costs. We continue to explore grant opportunities for this project to provide added value to our members.
Just as these people saw progress at Elk Point in the early 1900s, we too see a bright future. With the completion of this building, we will create a space where our members can be informed. We want to educate our members on the issues that matter to them; whether it’s security, solar power, grid reliability or energy savings. We are here to work for you, our members.