Construction on new Douglas Electric facility is underway
Story and photos by Craig Reed
After months of discussion and paperwork—and a few unforeseen events—construction is underway on a new headquarters building for Douglas Electric Cooperative (DEC).
The groundbreaking event was October 4. Leveling and compacting for the building pad followed that week. The new headquarters is being built at the same site—1981 NE Stephens St., Roseburg—as the old building that has served the co-op’s staff and members for 72 years.
The project to benefit DEC’s 8,000 members and 10,000 meters is scheduled to be done in July 2022.
“We want to better meet members’ needs with this new facility,” says Douglas Electric General Manager Keith Brooks. “We have thought out work flows and the best way to being efficient. We’re trying to be leaner and meaner, to look at operations as a whole, to remove limitations the old facility put on us.”
In the administrative building, departments such as accounting and billing will be grouped together. Engineers who design new power lines will have offices adjacent to the crew base, improving communication and coordination.
“In the old building, people were spread out and stuck in every corner of the building,” Keith says.
Out in the yard, the previous dock only allowed one or two trucks at a time to load up equipment and supplies. That slowed response time to power outages.
The new facility will provide six bays, making response quicker. There will be a covered parking space for each truck.
“We want to get the linemen out of the yard faster to respond to outages and do the work with minimal obstacles along the way,” Keith says.
This building project has been on Keith’s desk since he became general manager in January 2018.
It was well-known by staff and board members that the old building had numerous issues, including not meeting present-day building or seismic codes, a cracked roof and walls that allowed water to leak into the interior, a lack of electrical outlets, limited insulation, inefficient heating and cooling systems and restrooms not up to Americans With Disabilities Act standards.
The project was first interrupted by “Snowmageddon” in February 2019. The storm brought down power lines and trees, resulting in power outages for up to five weeks for some DEC members.
Douglas Electric’s work force swelled from 35 to 180 as crews from other utilities not impacted by the storm arrived to provide aid.
“Our facility wasn’t equipped or prepared to handle an emergency situation like that,” Keith says. “It hampered the amount of time it took to restore the power to all of our members.”
After working through the impact of the storm and having time to refocus on the building project, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic took priority.
The virus also resulted in labor and materials shortages in numerous industries, and there were spikes in the price of available materials. That again delayed the building project.
Getting the construction plans approved by the city of Roseburg also was a long process.
According to an independent study conducted at the request of the DEC board in 2018, just replacing the office was projected to cost as much as $6 million.
“We feel that getting a new state-of-the-art office, plus expanding our storage yard, building a new warehouse and loading dock for approximately $7.5 million is a good deal, especially when you consider recent increases in material and labor costs,” Keith says. “We’re making compromises to keep the project on budget. It hasn’t been a smooth process, with once-in-a-lifetime events like Snowmageddon and a worldwide pandemic being thrown in our way. But it’s going to be worth it.”
The DEC administrative staff is working in temporary office space at 1600 NE Diamond Lake Boulevard.
Keith says there has been a strong emphasis placed on using local subcontractors for the work. Paul Bentley of Roseburg is the project architect. The lead contractor is Pence Construction of Salem.
“I can’t wait to stand in the lobby of the new building that’s really going to serve our members well,” Keith says. “The frustrations now will lead to satisfaction when it’s done.”