A More Efficient, Responsive Co-op

Douglas Electric Cooperative staff and board members are excited to work in new surroundings

Story and photos by Craig Reed

Multiple loading docks provide space for all co-op trucks and facilitate easier loading of supplies.

After a few years of talking, considering options, planning, designing, constructing and moving, Douglas Electric Cooperative staff and members have a new headquarters building and warehouse.

“It’s awesome,” says Bob Poage, chairman of the co-op’s board of directors. “It was definitely needed.”

DEC General Manager Keith Brooks says the new facility on Stephens Street in Roseburg was needed because the previous 75-year-old building was well past its intended life.

The co-op provides power to 11,000 meters and 8,500 members.

“This is a game changer for us,” Keith says. “We built this with production and efficiency in mind. We have faced a lot of catastrophes lately, with snow and fire around our area. We took the lessons those tragedies taught us and incorporated them into the design of this building and the warehouse to position us to better respond to future events. I think it has positioned us very well for at least the next 50 years.”

The 2-story building features offices for staff rather than cubicles. The new conference room can handle more visitors. A smaller conference room is available for one-on-one discussions.

There are men’s and women’s locker rooms, with showers for line crews to change out of dirty gear and clean up. The receptionists in the lobby area work behind sliding glass windows for safety.

To save money and foster efficiency, motion sensors in each office and room automatically turn the LED lights on and off, depending on use.

Outside, there are nine loading docks. There’s no more lineup of trucks to load them, and all the co-op’s trucks can be parked under cover, which helps prolong their use.

Improved lighting in the yard benefits crew members who have to pull supplies and load trucks at night.

“I think we built one of the most energy-efficient buildings in Douglas County,” Keith says. “The lighting is controlled with motion sensors. It’s well-insulated. We plan on installing solar on the roof at some point soon. Before, we were advising our members on efficiency, but we had one of the most energy-inefficient buildings ourselves.”

Before construction, architect Paul Bentley of Roseburg visited the old co-op building, studied the workflow issues and designed the new facility in the best manner for efficient work.

“The paperwork goes from one office to the next-door office,” Keith says. “People who work together the most are now located together. That wasn’t the case with the old offices.”

The new headquarters building includes a conference room available for board meetings.

Douglas Electric has had a steady annual growth of 1% to 1.5% in recent years. Keith says the new building will be able to handle small, steady growth for many years.

The construction and upgrades were completed close to the initial estimated cost.

“Everything came in close to budget even though it was done through the pandemic and with supply chain shortages,” Keith says.

Evan Barnes, chair of the co-op board from 2017 to 2022 during the discussions and construction of the new facility, says it was the right decision to build new.

“The new building has so many benefits,” he says.

Early discussions centered on two options: renovate and upgrade the old building or demolish it and build new.

The cost to maintain the old building was excessive. It was not up to seismic code. When it was built, the co-op had 10 employees, and now there are 38. The former building needed a new roof, and water seeped through the walls and floors.

When a major snowstorm hit a few years ago and caused multiple outages, Douglas Electric had 184 contractors joining its own staff and crew on-site. The building couldn’t handle the traffic. Trucks were backed up waiting for supplies because there was only one loading dock.

An evaluation showed the cost to build new was close to the same as renovating the existing building, plus there was no way to bring up that structure to modern seismic standards in the process.

“It’s a lot safer and will be able to respond better to earthquakes, storms, wildfires—disasters like those,” Bob says. “We were overcrowded. It’s way more efficient, and time is expensive.

“I want to thank the membership for trusting the board in making this important decision. We had the last building for 75 years, and we hope to have this one for another 75 years.”