It’s business as usual for the staff of Henderson Municipal Power and Light.
Except the “as usual” is a bit different the past week.
Among boxes full of documents and stacks of yet-to-be-organized supplies, HMP&L staff are officially moved in, though maybe not yet settled in.
The first day at the office for some of the utility’s 49 employees was Tuesday; the rest joined them the next day, said HMP&L General Manager Brad Bickett.
The state-of-the art facility, at a cost of $23 million and with nearly 60,000 square feet, holds several amenities that the former offices on Water Street did not.
For instance, the new offices have:
- Solatubes, a lighting system that collects natural light and disperses it inside the building
- 517 solar panels on top of the building
- A large back bay for truck loading/unloading
- A covered storage for transformers, instead of the open yard at the old location. “It’s nice to get them under a roof,” said Bickett.
- Reinforced construction of a perimeter within the building that can withstand tornado-strength winds, allowing for continued operations in the event of an emergency
- A large multipurpose training room, which allows all 49 HMP&L employees to meet as one group inside, instead of having to pull the whole group outside, Bickett said.
The modern design consists of office space, a warehouse and garage. Site plans on the HMP&L website show office space is 22,000 square feet, the warehouse is 16,000 square feet and the garage is 6,600 square feet.
To the building’s rear rests the back loading docks, which is listed at 12,000 square feet.
Beyond that there is a 32,000-square-foot pole yard and the 11,500-square-foot covered storage area.
All this rests on an 8-plus-acre plot of land at 1213 Barrett Blvd. behind Walmart.
The former operations center consisted of five different buildings on the square city block bounded by Fifth Street, Main Street, the railroad tracks and Water Street.
Crews at the old location are currently busy loading the remaining equipment, including transformers and poles, and bringing it to the new campus. Bickett said it will all be moved by the end of January.
One building will remain at the old campus—a small network operations center, which will be used as a backup control center, Bickett said. The building faces Main Street.
Groundbreaking for the new facility occurred on June 27, 2022.
Three years earlier, it appeared that a new facility would be built on the space that HMP&L just left. Former HMP&L General Manager Chris Heimgartner told the Henderson City Commission in November 2019 that the utility’s board of directors had approved a plan to raze the downtown site and build a new $13.5 million facility in the same location, according to a Gleaner article then.
Heimgartner told the city commission that HMP&L had been looking for land to build but had not been successful, said the article.
But city commissioners weren’t on board. Later, members of the Henderson Downtown Partnership asked HMP&L to reconsider the plan to rebuild in the same location. And HMP&L agreed to look again for land, Bickett said.
HMP&L signed an intent to purchase the 8-plus acres on Barrett Boulevard in May 2020, Bickett said.
Bickett said HMPL will hold a soft opening on Jan. 31 for employees and families. On Feb. 8, there will be a Henderson Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and open house for the public, he said. Bickett believes the building will be in use for at least 50 years.
“It’s something I think our community should be proud of,” Bickett said. “We’re going to be able to operate out of this building for the foreseeable future.”