Lamar Electric Cooperative is relocating its headquarters this year after 85 years of being located in downtown Paris.
Lamar Electric has outgrown its current facility that was built in 1949. There is not enough room there to park all the trucks or equipment. According to general manager Jerry Williams, the current building has been added onto several times and has expected issues from a 1949 structure.
Due to the physical limitations and the expense of bringing the current facility to modern day code, Williams said it would not be cost effective to remodel. The new site is located just west of Blossom on Highway 82. Although the cooperative has been headquartered in downtown Paris, it does not serve anything inside the loop of Paris. This new location will allow the rural electric co-op to be more centrally located for its members in their service area. Lamar Electric provides electricity to more than 12,600 meters in the rural areas of Red River, Delta and Lamar counties.
The new building will be a free-standing metal structure with brick and Texas stone on the front portion. The 14,000-square-foot office will have a drive-thru lane that will feature a drive-up drawer instead of the previous tube for transacting business. This will facilitate better eye contact and easier communication with the cooperative members. Highway 82 already has a turning lane providing easier access and visibility for members. Trucks and trailers loaded with poles can enter and exit the facility easier because there are two active lanes in each direction. The boulevard entrance area will allow a better flow of traffic exiting the building onto an open highway instead of onto a crowded city street.
Lamar Electric’s new building will feature a 4,000-square-foot meeting room that will hold about 250 people. Cooperative members will be able to use the meeting room for family reunions, wedding showers, anniversary parties, birthday parties and other events. The meeting room is a benefit provided to the members free of charge other than a cleaning fee. This area will be locked off from the main building during events. It will have a separate parking area and entrance as well as its own private restrooms. This will allow members to use the meeting room without disturbing people conducting business in the office area. The room includes a kitchen with three ovens, refrigerator and ice machine.
“The ovens should help with members serving warm casseroles and rolls, using the serving line on one side of the kitchen,” Williams said.
The meeting room will have tables and chairs available in a storage room. A concrete slab will be located in the back where barbecue grills or fish cookers can be parked and have easy access to the back door. Members will be able to use this facility on weekdays or weekends.
“This facility is paid for by the cooperative members and can only be reserved by a cooperative member,” Williams said.
Most families or groups will include a cooperative member that can be responsible for the reservation, Williams added.
A 5,000-square-foot warehouse area will provide space to store materials used to maintain the electric lines. Pallet racks and a fork lift will be used to more efficiently store material. Enough materials will be maintained to handle most large storms without bringing in additional materials.
“The most energy efficient method for heating and cooling any building is an earth coupled heat pump,” Williams said, adding the technology has been around for over 60 years but is still not widely used in residential housing in Texas. “The new office and meeting room will be entirely heated and cooled with water circulated in the connected earth loop. No auxiliary or back up heat is needed.”
Water will be circulated through 18,000 feet of plastic pipe that is buried in the ground behind the building. This will allow people using the meeting room or conducting business to experience how efficient and comfortable an earth coupled system can be.
In the event of an ice storm, there is lots of compacted gravel parking space to bring in outside crews from surrounding cooperatives to assist with restoring power to the area if needed. Unlike the current facility, Lamar Electric will be the electricity provider for the building at the new rural location.
An emergency back-up generator will continue to power the entire complex in the event of a power loss. The back-up generator will provide power to all systems in the event of a power failure. Being able to send a signal to the meters to see if they are energized will help with power restoration. This helps dispatch identify members that may still be without power and to communicate with the linemen in the field.
Williams said future plans include a fueling station for co-op trucks. The new facilities are designed to allow the cooperative to effectively make needed repairs, regardless of how bad the weather is. The goal is to provide reliable electric power to the cooperative members in the rural areas of Lamar, Red River, and Delta counties.
“Members/customers of Lamar Electric will not have any rate increase because of the building project and no increase is expected in the next few years,” Williams said.
All Lamar customers had a 2 cent per kWh rate reduction as of Jan. 1, 2018, with another quarter cent kWh reduction on Jan. 1, 2019, and approximately another quarter cent per kWh reduction as of Jan. 1, 2020, he said. Overall, those customers’ retail rates have gone down about 2 ½ cents, and the current wholesale power contract is locked in through 2022.
McInnis Brothers Construction is the general contractor with much of the work being done by local subcontractors. KSA Engineering is the architect for the project. Both McInnis and KSA are well known locally, having done projects for the City of Paris. Depending on weather, the building is expected to be completed in June of this year.