An open house was held Tuesday for Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporations new district office and operations facilities serving Ashe County members.
The Ashe district office opened in late June at its new location of 2375 Hwy. 163, West Jefferson. The former office and facilities on Mt. Jefferson Road will be sold with proceeds going toward the cost of the new facility.
The new facilities provide a safer, more efficient operational environment for both employees and members, said Doug Johnson, chief executive officer.
The new facility enables more efficient response to outages and other member service needs, especially since Ashe County serves as the hub for the cooperatives transmission system providing electricity to some 52,000 members in Ashe, Watauga and Alleghany counties. It has appropriate space to accommodate loading and dispatching large equipment, tools, and materials necessary for electric utility maintenance, outage response and service work.
Growth in number of members served out of the Ashe district office was another driving force behind the need for new facilities. Over the years, Ashe County has experienced tremendous growth and the number of members served from the Ashe district office has grown exponentially. Development along Mt. Jefferson Road has also increased, which created serious safety challenges for line technicians and contractors driving large service vehicles in and out of the cooperatives operations area. Safety was also an issue for members driving in and out for drive-through window service or coming into the office.
Blue Ridge Electric worked to come up with a cost effective building that would be easy to maintain, be energy efficient, and hold up well to last many years into the future. It was also designed to blend in with the natural, scenic, beauty of Ashe County and meet environmental requirements.
The new office also features two drive-through windows with spacious driving areasa service option widely used by Ashe County members.
The area includes a storm water bio-retention pond for storm water run-off management to help protect water quality and the surrounding environment. The bio-pond meets all requirements of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The building has efficiency heat pumps to reduce energy consumption and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) with motion detector light switches also help control electricity usage. Offices are equipped with individual thermostats to further avoid wasting energy.
In the parking lot and around the building, down lights reduce outside light pollution.
Blue Ridge Electric also wanted to continue providing a community benefit as it has done over the years: included in the new office design is a community meeting room available for use by civic groups. Qualified groups should call ahead to discuss reservations and check availability with the district office.
In addition to serving electric members, customer service for the cooperatives wholly owned heating fuels subsidiary, Blue Ridge Energies, will also be offered from the new office. The new building features gas logs, fireplaces, heaters, and other gas products offered through Blue Ridge Energies.
Cooperative employees are excited about the improved customer service and safety options of the new office as well as incorporating energy efficiency measures and materials into the construction of the building.
Were also pleased the building is being designed to fit into the natural, scenic beauty of Ashe County, said Gwynita Steele, district manager. Its been carefully planned and constructed to serve our members well for many years into the future.