New OTEC facility moves forward

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer August 26, 2010 08:54 am
BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH/The Observer During a RECENT Rotary Club luncheon, Jarod Rogers of WC Construction displays plans for Oregon Trail Electric Co-Opís new, energy efficient office building and warehouse and truck barn. Rogers said the project will begin in October, and be complete toward the end of next summer.
BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH/The Observer During a RECENT Rotary Club luncheon, Jarod Rogers of WC Construction displays plans for Oregon Trail Electric Co-Opís new, energy efficient office building and warehouse and truck barn. Rogers said the project will begin in October, and be complete toward the end of next summer.
Construction of Oregon Trail Electric Co-Op’s new

La Grande facility will get under way soon, with a host of local construction workers putting up an office building and warehouse that will be models of efficiency.

That was the message from Jarod Rogers of WC Construction, featured speaker at a recent La Grande Rotary luncheon.

“This project was designed to be 20 percent more efficient than the most stringent codes,” Rogers told Rotarians  gathered at the Union County Transit Hub.

OTEC announced in April it would build on the same site as the current one, on Cove Avenue. In July, the OTEC board made the decision to hire WC Construction as the lead contractor to build a 10,000-square-foot office building and a 16,000-square-foot warehouse and truck barn.

One reason for WC’s selection, said Rogers, is that the Elgin-based construction company is familiar with the LEED certification program, an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED is a voluntary program that measures how well a building performs in areas including energy savings, water efficiency, carbon reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to impacts.

There are four levels of certification; the more points a project is given by LEED evaluators, the higher the certification level. Rogers said OTEC’s goal is to score 50-59 points for the Silver level.

He said LEED certification shows that the owner is concerned about sustainability, He added that having a certified building carries an economic benefit.

“There are points for energy efficiency, so there are savings going forward,” he said. “The building is supposed to pay for itself over its life span.”

He said one thing the local project had in its favor from the start is that is is being built on an already developed site. That, he said, is preferable to breaking ground in green fields, and worth certification points.

The new buildings will be covered with rigid foam, an added layer of insulation. They will also feature asphalt shingle roofs and be equipped with a solar heating system.

More LEED points will be gleaned by salvaging and recycling some 75 percent of the materials from the old buildings. The fact that WC Construction plans to obtain most materials for the project from local and regional vendors also figures in.

“Except for the steel, we can get almost anything else regionally,” Rogers said.

In May 2009, OTEC announced it was looking into the possibility of building a new facility in the La Grande area. Currently, the utility owns two aging facilities in the city. Cost to bring them up to date was judged too high.

OTEC considered several sites, including the Ladd Canyon substation between Gekeler Lane and Highway 30, the La Grande Business and Technology Park on Gekeler and a property in Island City.

After deciding to rebuild on the Cove Avenue site, the member-owned company started looking for a main contractor. Rogers said that in negotiations, OTEC was firm that it wanted local contractors and subcontractors involved with the project.

“The whole board made it clear that they wanted us to use as many local people as possible,” Rogers said.

The new facility will cost about $4 million, though OTEC says ratepayers won’t see their electric bills go up appreciably because of project expenses.

David Baum, a Rotary member who also serves as president of OTEC’s board of directors, said during the luncheon he is excited about the project because it will have a big, positive impact on the community.

“It’s a local company providing local jobs,” he said.

Rogers said he expects work to begin in October and be complete next summer.