The West Kootenay Power staff house at South Slocan is seen in the 1960s. FortisBC

FortisBC wins approval for new operations centre

FortisBC has received regulatory approval from the BC Utilities Commission to build a new Kootenay operations centre in Ootischenia.

FortisBC has received regulatory approval from the BC Utilities Commission to build a new Kootenay operations centre in Ootischenia.

The facility will centralize the power company’s existing operations in South Slocan, Castlegar, and Warfield.

“This decision is a critical step in ensuring we can provide the best service to the Kootenay region over the long‑term,” vice-president Dennis Swanson said in a news release. “It’s the most cost-effective way to replace end-of life facilities in the Kootenays, and once built, will have immediate customer, employee and operational benefits.”

FortisBC first identified the need for a new facility in a 2011 application to the utilities commission.

The company says its existing facilities, including two South Slocan buildings and its Castlegar district office, are “at or near the end of their useful life and would require extensive upgrades to meet modern building code and safety standards.”

The company hasn’t indicated what it plans to do with its South Slocan operations centre building, formerly the West Kootenay Power staff house, built in the 1920s.

“FortisBC has since consulted with community stakeholders and reviewed several alternatives, including the cost of upgrades,” the news release said. “Through this process, the company found that a new operations centre would be the most practical and cost-effective way to address these needs.”

The new operations centre will be approximately 30,000 square feet (2,800 square meters). It will contain office and crew space, material storage and a dedicated emergency operations centre.

Approximately 100 employees will operate from the facility including power line technicians, substation electricians, engineers, designers and other administration staff and field crews that work with transmission and distribution services.

Construction is set to begin as early as May following a tendering process. The facility, to be built on the former site of Ootischenia elementary school, is expected to open before the end of 2017.

Fortis has 42 employees at its South Slocan office, which is closest to its Kootenay River dams.

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