Utilities breaks ground on new facility
Published 10:10 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Construction set to start on administrative facility within the next few weeks
Austin Utilities is set for some new digs.
Utilities officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for a new, $18.6 million central administrative facility at 1908 14th St. NE in Energy Park. Construction is set to begin within the next few weeks and should wrap up by June 2016.
“It’s a huge day for Austin Utilities,” Thomas Baudler, Austin Utilities board president, said. “It’s been a long, long time coming for us.”
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Utilities officials are looking to consolidate office operations, including customer service, staff operations and administrative duties, from the seven buildings utilities workers use.
To that end, the new building will address several ongoing issues, according to General Manager Mark Nibaur.
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. The new plans would also disaster-proof utilities operations, which Nibaur said was an important improvement.
Austin Utilities has looked at options to improve its efficiencies for years — utilities officials bought 23 acres south of Todd Park in 2009 to potentially host a new building. But at that time, Nibaur said the time wasn’t right to move forward until utilities officials decommissioned the downtown power plant and looked at its options.
“We put in a lot of hours to get to this point,” Nibaur said.
The city has already decommissioned the downtown plant, and the northeast plant is set to go offline starting in 2016.
Utilities officials recently increased rates to help pay for the project and estimated bond payments over the next few years.
Electric rates increased 1.77 percent, gas rates increased 3.5 percent and water rates increased 6.9 percent starting Jan. 1.
Utilities officials estimate an average increase of $8.18 per month in utilities payments for residential customers and a 1 to 3 percent increase per month for commercial properties.
Austin Utilities timeline
1889 — A small power plant is put up on Water Street, which becomes the future Austin Utilities Downtown Power Plant.
1899 — Austin Village Council purchases the plant and creates a municipal electric company.
1961 — Austin Municipal Building, located at 400 Fourth St. NE, is built.
1971 — The Northeast Power Plant, located at 2901 11th St. NE, is built.
2009 — Austin Utilities purchases 29 acres at 1908 14th St. NE to create Energy Park.
2011 — Utilities begins decommissioning downtown plant in spring. Wraps up decommission in 2014.
2013 — Utilities prepares to get feedback on a potential central administrative facility at the end of the year.
2014 — Utilities board decides to move forward on Energy Park facility. Later that year, Utilities leaders decide to decommission Northeast Power Plant. The process should start in June of 2016.
2015 — Austin City Council approves bond requests for Energy Park facility.