WEU releases rendered drawings of new building

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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West Escambia Utilities Manager Kenny Smith recently released rendered drawings of the utility company’s new office building.

WEU, after an appraisal was completed, purchased the property where the old Helton building is located on East Ridgeley Street, between Atmore Family Dental and the chiropractor’s office.

Smith said WEU just got the legal paperwork back, describing the company as the owner of the building.

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When asked if he’s planning on renovating the building to hold the new office, he said it will be torn down. Smith said the white portion of the building will be torn down to make way for the new building, but the brick portion will be kept in tact.

“This white part will be torn down,” he said. “We’re saving the warehouse and it will be a maintenance area. That’s actually in pretty good shape. Structurally, it’s really good.”

The front of the building will have a copper awning and feature gas-lit lanterns. Smith said the outside will be brick.

Smith said the inside will feature an entrance lobby area, separate stations, offices, a conference room, break room, server room and a room for storage.

Smith said the rendered drawings aren’t set in stone.

“For the most part, they’re (the board) content with this,” he said. “We don’t have the plans yet so we can’t start with bids, yet.

“We’re hoping to at least go out for bids possibly by the end of the year,” he said. “That’s a game plan.”

Smith said this extra time will allow WEU time to tear down the Helton building and get a concrete surface in place with water, sewer and gas lines.

When asked how WEU plans on paying for the new office building, Smith said the company will pay for it in house.

“We don’t plan on borrowing any money to do it,” he said. “We don’t plan on having to do any loans. We’ve known this was coming for a long time. I’ve got plans that this was talked about in the late 1990s.”

Smith said there will be a rate increase, like normal, but it won’t be abnormal.

“Our customers will benefit from this too,” he said.

Smith said the biggest reasons why WEU is constructing a new building are for selling appliances and having more space.

“That’s been the biggest reason that’s been on the forefront of the boards’ agenda for years,” he said. “We have no storage, and that’s why I have a portable building out back. A lot of times we need more room to sit down and have a talk. We do use the city’s facilities.

“This will give us a chance to have a place downtown,” he said. “This is good timing when the downtown is going through a renovation itself.”

Smith said the new building will be in the ballpark of 4,172 square feet.

“We’re excited about it,” he said.