Citizens Electric Corporation (CEC) will be relocating its headquarters to Perryville.
The CEC Board of Directors voted last Thursday to approve building projects for a new headquarters and two service facilities, following the recommendations of a 2010 facilities assessment from a consultant firm.
CEC announced the decision Sunday morning.
“While there is still much work to do, today represents a significant milestone in the facilities planning process,” CEC CEO Van Robinson said in a news release. “Getting the lights back on during a crisis is vital to the lives of Citizens’ members. Currently, CEC’s critical equipment is located in a flood zone and is also vulnerable to an earthquake or tornado.”
Although no timetable has been given, CEC expects to move out of its location at 150 Merchant Street in downtown Ste. Genevieve to a parcel of 40 acres it owns near Highway 51 in Perryville. The new headquarters will include a hardened structure that will help protect CEC’s systems and personnel in the event of a major disaster. Robinson has said that type of structure is necessary for CEC to provide reliable service if a major restoration effort is needed.
“When things are at their worst, we need to be at our best,” Robinson said.
The facility also is expected to include a meeting space that can hold all of CEC’s employees, something it currently does not have, and space to serve as a staging area for restoration efforts.
Ste. Genevieve Mayor Dick Greminger called the news “expected,” although he was disappointed.
Since CEC began pursuing the idea of the hardened facility in recent years and hinted at the central location in Perryville, Ste. Genevieve city officials have tried to to keep the headquarters here.
“I think the decision was made when they started looking,” Greminger said. “They’ve had the property down there for years, and there was no question all along that it was going to be in Perryville.”
The cost of constructing a new facility—depreciation and interest—is expected to be about 2 percent of CEC’s annual operating budget of more than $110 million, although CEC has not yet announced a dollar figure related to the building.
Robinson has stressed the increase in the annual budget does not correlate to a similar increase in electricity rates.
Officials with the electric cooperative have said it spends more annually on tree trimming. The largest portion of the annual budget—80 percent of it—is used to purchase power from Wabash Valley Power Association, of which CEC is the largest member.
CEC is the largest electric cooperative in Missouri in terms of kilowatt hours. Its 26,000-plus members located in Ste. Genevieve, Perry, northern Cape Girardeau and eastern St. Francois counties include large industrial users such as Holcim, Procter and Gamble, Mississippi Lime Company and others.
CEC’s plans also call for the relocation of a maintenance facility, currently located on 5 acres on Industrial Drive in the City of Ste. Genevieve, to a larger site located outside the city near the intersection of Highway 32 and Interstate 55. The facilities assessment recommended fewer service facilities in more accessible locations.
Cooperative Building Solutions of St. Charles County was selected as the general contractor on all three projects—the new headquarters and service facilities in the northern and southern districts of CEC’s service territory. Eight contractors bid on the job.
Barb Casper, member services manager for CEC, said by email that no timeline or construction costs were available yet since bidding by subcontractors had not yet begun.
The Board of Directors did establish a budget and expressed intention to build as soon as possible, according to a news release.
“Right now is the most fiscally responsible time to build,” Robinson said. “Construction costs and finance rates can’t get much lower.”
Casper said CEC did not wish to release the amount in its budget while the bidding process was taking place.
The CEC Board of Directors has 10 members, including three from Ste. Genevieve and one from St. Mary. Three are from Perryville and one from Frohna in Perry County, and two are from northern Cape Girardeau County.
CEC officials negotiated with Ste. Genevieve’s Board of Aldermen last year in an attempt to secure 15 acres in the city’s Industrial Park while offering the city the downtown headquarters building. The Board of Aldermen countered unsuccessfully with a proposal that attempted to keep CEC’s headquarters in Ste. Genevieve by offering more land, shovel-ready, in the Industrial Park.
“I hate to see it go but I don’t know what else we could have done to try to keep it here,” Greminger said. “We tried to give them the property here but that didn’t work for them.”
Greminger is hopeful that a new tenant can utilize the CEC building in the future.