Marking the ceremonial start of a comprehensive facilities construction project, representatives of Crawford Electric broke ground June 7 on the co-op’s 60-acre campus along Interstate 44 just east of Bourbon.

Since late May, extensive dirt work and site preparation have been under way on the $10.4 million project.

The 67,000-square-foot facility will include a new operations building, vehicle storage facility and warehouse. The project is expected to be finished by late spring 2013.

The project is moving forward after years of consideration and 20 months of intensive planning, which were focused on creating comprehensive facilities to better serve co-op members.

Dan Blesi, Crawford Electric’s general manager and CEO, said now is the best time to address the co-op’s facilities needs.

“The functional deficiencies and issues with the conditions of the current facilities require attention,” Blesi said.

Officials noted that hundred of thousands of dollars of co-op assets (vehicles and line material) are currently stored outside. An additional 38,000 square feet of warehouse and garage space is required to adequately secure these assets.

Additionally, the existing warehouse, garage and materials loading areas cannot effectively handle the huge line of trucks utilized.

There also is a lack of appropriately constructed and located facilities which hamper the ability of linemen and operations personnel to respond to power outage emergencies.

Operations are currently housed in a building that is 60 years old, that is undersized by 5,500 square feet, that is a “hodgepodge” of years of additions and renovations, and that lacks the capacity for further expansion and technological upgrades.

Blesi said the construction of the new facility will not impact member rates any more than other system improvement work plans do. “The cost of this project is not an expense that hits our bottom line in a single year,” he said. “It is an investment in our infrastructure, paid for over the course of 50 years.”

Cooperative Building Solutions is the design-builder of the project, with construction management services provided by PARIC Corp. In awarding bids for the project in May, the co-op’s board of directors paid considerable attention to the participation of local businesses and contractors employing local workers.

The co-op’s current facility was dedicated in 1953. At that time, Crawford Electric served fewer than 6,000 accounts and employed about 30 local people. The co-op has grown to serve more than 19,000 accounts and currently employs 62 local people.

The new facility will feature a drive-up payment window, provision for the co-op’s annual meeting to be held in the vehicle storage area, fully functional operations management space and adequate asset protection. Additionally, the cooperative expects to realize gains in productivity and efficiency as a direct result of the new facilities.

Crawford Electric Cooperative is a member of Touchstone Energy, a national alliance of locally owned, community-minded electric co-ops with high standards of service. Crawford Electric serves more than 19,000 meters along more than 3,300 miles of distribution lines in Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Washington and Dent counties.