MLEA to build new office, operations complex

RANGELY — Moon Lake Electric Association’s board of directors voted unanimously on Wednesday to build a new office and operations complex on land the cooperative owns on U.S. Highway 40 west of Roosevelt, Utah.
The board awarded an $8.9 million contract to Big-D Construction Corp. to build the facility. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Big-D is expected to begin work on the project sometime this month, said Moon Lake Electric General Manager and CEO Grant Earl on Thursday. He said the project is expected to take nine months to complete.
“That’s quite aggressive, considering that we’re going into winter, but Big-D believes they can do it,”Earl said.
Moon Lake’s existing office on 200 North in Roosevelt is a 35-year-old structure that can no longer be upgraded to accommodate new technology. And the cooperative’s warehouse and yard on North State Street is crumbling after more than 60 years of use and exposure to the elements.
Earl presented other reasons for building a new facility during a two-hour meeting in late March with a concerned patron and members of the media, including:
n A lack of parking at the current office building for employees and members;
n Widespread heating and cooling deficiencies in the existing building that affect not only the comfort of the employees, but the cost of operations;
n The lack of a drive-up window at the current building, which is one of the most common requests Moon Lake receives from members when asked how it can improve customer service; and
n A lack of sufficient heated parking for large work trucks, which causes problems with the vehicles’ hydraulic systems when the temperatures drop.
Earl said the new facility will consist of 21,000 square feet of office space and a 38,000 square foot operations center and yard, complete with concrete storage pads and heated truck ports to protect the cooperative’s high-priced vehicles from the weather.
The Moon Lake board’s decision to move forward with the project comes four years after the cooperative suspended plans for a new building in the face of a possible hike in wholesale power rates and increases in the cost of concrete and steel.
While the likelihood of wholesale power rate increases hasn’t gone away — one was recently passed on by the Western Area Power Administration and another could be coming from Deseret Power — Earl said Moon Lake has chosen to build its new facility now because of recent trends in Utah’s construction industry.
“The construction industry has slowed down,”he said. “This is an optimal time for us to get the best rates for labor and materials.”
Wherever possible, Earl said, local subcontractors will be employed on the project.
“That’s probably been the most scrutinized part of this process,”he said.
Another part of the process that was also heavily scrutinized was the impact that building the new facility will have on patrons’ pocketbooks. Earl said Moon Lake has adequate access to funds to pay for the project without immediately raising customers’ rates.
“That’s been the biggest concern of the board,”Earl said.
Still, given the increased cost of wholesale power, Moon Lake’s aggressive maintenance program, and the cost of construction for the new building, Earl said there is the possibility of a 20 percent rate increase in 2011. He said the new building would account for 4 percent of the projected increase.
Earl noted though that the cooperative might not need to raise rates as much as anticipated, depending on a wide number of variables. He said if the board deems that a rate hike is necessary it may consider incremental increases rather than a large, one-time increase.
“But we’re in a position right now that we don’t need to raise rates,”Earl said.
Moon Lake has not raised its rates in 23 years.
One of the things Moon Lake may do to help offset the cost of the new construction is sell its existing office building, warehouse, and yard. The board could also choose to sell roughly eight acres of its 24-acre parcel on U.S. 40. Earl said the new facility will only occupy about 16 acres there.
“That’s something to look at down the road,”he said of any potential sale of the land along the highway.
Earl said the land where the new facility will be built is mostly in Duchesne County. Moon Lake will seek to have the property annexed into Roosevelt City, he said.