Victoria Electric Cooperative invests millions in new building

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

July 16, 2017 at 9:47 p.m.
Updated July 17, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Victoria Electric Cooperative moved to a new location at 5502 N. U.S. 59 about eight weeks ago. The nonprofit invested about $12 million in the building.

Victoria Electric Cooperative moved to a new location at 5502 N. U.S. 59 about eight weeks ago. The nonprofit invested about $12 million in the building.   Contributed by Priscilla Burgos for The Victoria Advocate

The $12 million Victoria Electric Cooperative invested in constructing a new building for the nonprofit is paying off, the general manager said.

The business opened at its new location, 5502 N. U.S. 59, about eight weeks ago, said Blaine Warzecha, general manager. The new building is more secure and up-to-date, has improved employee morale and offers more room.

"Everyone is excited to come to work," he said. "Our members (consumers) really like it because they have a sense of security. It's a really secure facility."

Victoria Electric Cooperatives maintains about 3,000 miles of electric lines and provides electricity to rural consumers in five Crossroads counties.

The new building has an open concept and a rustic and modern feel, Warzecha said. The old location, 102 S. Ben Jordan St., was built in 1970 and was like a maze of small offices. The new facility encourages employees to work together, he said.

"There wasn't a lot of collaboration, and that's one of our principles," he said. "You'll find folks talking more about business and bringing up great ideas."

The nonprofit bought the property about five years ago, and planning and construction took four years to complete, Warzecha said.

The company outgrew its old location, where it was housed for 46 years, Warzecha said. The building was added onto as the company grew, but it didn't make financial sense to renovate it any more.

"(Being in the city limits), we weren't on our own electrical lines," he said. "We thought it was important to serve ourselves."

The nonprofit is expected to have about 70 employees by the end of the month, which is about 20 more than it had a decade ago, Warzecha said.

The new location is also more efficient than the last. The entire building has LED lighting and the most efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems available, Warzecha said.

The old location was about 26,000 square feet, with the community room taking up a large portion of that space. The room was used for meetings, including the annual members' meeting.

The new location has about 30,000 square feet and a smaller community room.

The new building is safer than the last, as it has one access point instead of three like the last, Warzecha said. It also is hurricane-proof, as the engineering and operating room can withstand up to 200 mph winds and the rest of the building can withstand up to 120 mph winds.

The last facility had roof leakage issues after Hurricane Claudette in 2003, which threatened the nonprofit's services. Having a stormproof building is essential because people need electricity during emergencies.

"Water and technology don't go very well together, nor does electricity," he said. "We have to be available when our members need us the most."



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