Archived Story

Utilities hires architect, construction manager

Published 10:15am Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Administrative facility would be built at the Energy Park near Todd Park

Austin Utilities has hired several firms to further its plans for a central administrative facility.

Utilities officials announced Wednesday they have hired architects TKDA to design the facility and Joseph Company as the project’s construction manager.

General Manager Mark Nibaur said TKDA, which created the concepts for the building, will draw up two building designs — one with operations and customers service offices, and one with just operations — to be built at Austin Utilities’ 23-acre Energy Park property near Todd Park.

TKDA will be responsible for schematic designs, development designs, construction drawings and will also help bid out the project should the Austin Utilities Board of Directors decide to move forward on the new building.

“They’ll do it all,” Nibaur said.

The Joseph Company will assist in the schematic process to help TKDA officials find the most cost-effective materials and possibilities. Once TKDA and Joseph Company estimate costs for both projects, utilities officials will bring proposals back to the utilities board. Nibaur hopes to have financial numbers to the board by the end of the year or early next year. At that point, the board will decide whether to build a new facility.

Utilities officials set aside $900,000 for the design phase after the utilities board approved moving forward on the facility in March. They hired TKDA for $885,000 and Joseph Company for $30,000.

Utilities officials are looking to consolidate office operations, including customer service, staff operations and administrative duties, from the seven buildings utilities workers use. Though Austin Utilities has for years looked at options to improve its efficiencies — utilities officials bought 23 acres south of Todd Park in 2009 to potentially host a new building — Nibaur previously said the time wasn’t right to move forward until utilities officials decommissioned the downtown power plant and looked at its options.

A new building would solve several safety and regulation issues for the utilities company. Austin Utilities doesn’t have enough space to store essential supplies like water and gas pipes indoors, according to Nibaur, and there are numerous inefficiencies throughout utilities operations that could be eliminated through a new facility. Utilities officials estimate the company could save $2.5 million over the next 10 years with a new facility.

Officials previously estimated the average residential utility bill would rise by $5 to $6 per month, while a small- to medium-sized business bill would increase an average of $44 to $70 per month and a large business utility bill would increase an average $66 to $142 per month. The company will also look at federal and private grants to offset construction costs, according to Nibaur. The rate increase would go toward a 20-year bond for the project.

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