By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
West Escambia Utilities officials broke ground Wednesday, January 20, on a new, $1.28 million headquarters building that will take the area’s private water and gas provider out of Atmore City Hall and allow for better customer access.
WEU Manager Kenny Smith said he had been developing and revising plans for the new building since the “late 1990s.” Finally, the dream is on the way to becoming a 4,000-square-foot reality.
“We’ve been working on this for quite some time,” Smith said after the groundbreaking ceremony, which was attended by all five board members, Mayor Jim Staff, the building’s architect and three representatives of the contractor that will build it. “It’s something the board as a whole has wanted to do for quite some time. The board’s excited, and I’m excited.”
Poarch-based Rolin Construction was the lowest among six bidders for the project, and company official Stephanie Rolin, Project Manager David Chapman and Project Superintendent Myke Smith attended and took part in the groundbreaking. Architect Forrest Daniell, from Daphne, also took part.
Site work began this week on the New Orleans-style WEU headquarters. Rolin said the project should take about 35-39 weeks to complete. She added that the job being local made it even more special.
“It’s important to us because it’s local,” she said. “It’s like when we do work for the (Poarch Creek Indians) Tribe. At the end of the day, all our projects are special, but it becomes a little more special, as opposed to projects somewhere else, when it’s right here in our back yard.”
Smith said he and board members agreed that the time had come to go ahead with the project, including the relatively low cost of mortgage money.
“We borrowed the money instead of using our savings,” he said. “With interest rates so low, it was smarter to borrow the money than to use our reserves. We’ll use some of our reserves for furniture and other things that aren’t included in the contract.”
If all goes well, WEU employees should begin working out of the new facility in late fall, Smith said.