By Dennis Seid
After nearly a decade of planning and more than a year of construction, the Tombigbee Electric Power Association has a new home.
The $7.4 million facility on Auburn Road is more than double the size of its old building on South Gloster Street, and TEPA’s campus now sits on about 30 acres instead of 14 acres.
General Manager Bill Long said TEPA had long outgrown its old site, and its 99 employees in Tupelo had little elbow room to maneuver.
“We began in 1934 as an electric cooperative and opened our office on South Gloster in 1962,” he said. “We had 13,000 members then. Now after 51 years, we’ve grown to 42,000 members, so we were bursting at the seams.”
Tombigbee Electric provides electricity to customers primarily in Lee and Itawamba counties. About 12,000 are in Itawamba County, where TEPA also has an office. That office will stay open.
The new headquarters originally was scheduled to open in May, but weather and other construction delays moved the opening back five months.
“We’re just glad to be here,” Long said.
The new headquarters building includes a separate customer service center connected to the engineering and operations building. A 300-seat auditorium was built as well.
The new campus also includes a warehouse and equipment storage building to keep vehicles and equipment covered and a fuel farm for gas and diesel. Two customer service drive-through lanes were built, with space available for a third spot.
The move isn’t quite complete, however. The South Gloster building will close at 1:30 p.m. today so office personnel can move to the Auburn Road building. The new office opens Monday at 7 a.m.
Customers can still call TEPA numbers and email representatives after 1:30 today. However, phone service will be temporarily interrupted for 10 minutes at 3 p.m., Long said.
In addition to the $7.4 million spent on the project, TEPA did about $2.5 million on its own for landscaping, electrical and other work.
“There was no rate increase for this project,” Long said. “But what we did five years ago was set aside one-half of a 10th of a penny – that’s .0005 cents – for the funding of the project in the rate structure.”
That allowed TEPA to build up a capital fund of more than $4 million.
A dedication service is scheduled for next month, and an open house will be held later, Long said.