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VEA unveils plans for new Pahrump facility

Valley Electric Association (VEA) has plans for a major expansion and renovation of their facility located on Highway 372.

Though details of the total cost for the project were not disclosed, VEA CEO Tom Husted said progress and increased demand over the years has outgrown the current facility’s ability to properly serve the needs of customers.

“As we have expanded the last several years with employees from 85 to approximately 105 with eight additional openings. We have simply run out of room. As we looked at how we are going to expand and accommodate not only employee positions today but 10, 15, 20 years down the road, it became apparent that we needed more room. We also have new responsibilities being in the California ISO with the purchase of Creech Air Force Base utility and our expanded operations at N2S2 (the test site),” he said.

Renderings of the expansion were unveiled during Friday’s board of directors meeting.

Husted said an architectural firm from Las Vegas is designing the new facility that will have much-needed additional space especially for meetings.

The new two-story facility is expected to be roughly 30,000 square feet.

“We do not have a meeting room big enough for our employees right now that meets handicapped requirements. When we have employee meetings, we have to do them in multiple days because you can’t take all of your employees out of the field and the staff and just have employee meetings,” he said.

For many years, VEA’s main office was located in Las Vegas.

More than 30 years ago, the co-op built a new office in Pahrump that seemed to serve the needs of the co-op until growth required a larger building.

VEA’s current headquarters campus opened for business in October 1997.

Husted spoke about the tight confines of the engineering building at the site.

Instead of putting a big room within a new building that will accommodate employees, the decision was made to go into another direction.

“As we were planning for a new building, we also talked about the engineering building and that’s really what the conference center is. It used to be our first office here in Pahrump. Before, our office was in Las Vegas. We built that building and that was our only building which accommodated administration, engineering, etcetera, it eventually became just the engineering building. We said that we could gut that and turn it into a conference center,” he said.

Husted noted that the new building will serve as more than just an employee meeting room throughout the year.

“That can be used to accommodate our district meetings so we won’t have to go to the Bob Ruud Community Center or the Pahrump Nugget. We can have our district meetings there. Not the annual meetings because we get a thousand or more people for that. The board is also considering opening that up to the public so they can have access to it for specific meetings. It will also have the one room called the ‘Ambassador Room’ and it could be used by various groups also. We will have communications capabilities. If a group wanted to have a video conference, we will have that as well. It’s a multipurpose meeting facility,” he said.

VEA is not wasting time to get the expansion off the ground.

Husted said dirt may start turning at the site as soon as next month.

“We are thinking of breaking ground sometime in the beginning of September with a six-month construction time frame. We will have to build the new building first and then move people from engineering over to there and then refurbish that building. Myself, customer service and administration will continue to remain in the main building. Engineering, communications and operations will be in the new facility,” he said.

Husted also said that the co-op invited input and additional ideas on the project from members who are part of VEA’s Ambassador Program.

VEA Ambassadors work directly with the staff on policies, procedures and programs; enlist member support in shaping policy; and learn how legislation affects the cooperative and its members.

“Once the board approved us to hire the architectural firm to develop the campus master plan, then we formed a committee of employees and asked for volunteers from the ambassador program. We had an ambassador committee that worked with us on the conference center and the campus master plan. We wanted to have member input because the members utilize the facilities. They are the ones who come here and do business. We wanted their input to make sure that the flow of traffic and business took in the members’ perspective.

Husted noted that VEA representatives recently visited a facility in California to help gain a better vision of what other amenities the new facility should provide for employees and there still may be a few changes with the original design as the project draws nearer.

“The California ISO (Independent System Operator) controls and operates 80 percent of the grid in California and then of course Valley Electric. They have a very large and sophisticated dispatch operations center. Our architects and a group of our engineers and operators went there just to glean information and all of the pros and cons. Their building is just a couple of years old. We just went there to get all of the pluses and minuses of what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. The campus master plan, the outside and the rooms are pretty much set. There will be changes as we continue the process,” he said.

VEA Executive Vice President of Government Relations Susan Fisher said the board voted to allow the project to move forward.

“The board authorized staff to take it to the next step which is to now start putting together a budget to take under consideration,” she said.

Husted, meanwhile, said that during the entire operation, the co-op’s day to day business, especially customer service will not be affected at all.

“The transition is going to have to be very well orchestrated,” he said.

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