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News / Business / Clark County Business

Clark Public Utilities spruces up service center

Nearly $3 million building renovation nearing completion

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 2, 2018, 5:09pm
4 Photos
Clark Public Utilities recently renovated its building at 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, making the building more energy-efficient and easier for customers to navigate.
Clark Public Utilities recently renovated its building at 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, making the building more energy-efficient and easier for customers to navigate. Photo Gallery

Customers paying their electric bill in person have probably noticed a different look and feel at the Clark Public Utilities Customer Service Center.

The utility is wrapping up a nearly $3 million, two-phase renovation at its offices at 1200 Fort Vancouver Way. The nearly year-and-a-half-long remodel included energy-efficiency updates, changes to the customer service areas, parking updates and some cosmetic updates.

“It had been a very, very long time since the building had been updated,” said Lisa Fix, director of customer service.

Clark’s building was built in 1956. The third floor was added in 1981, and the most recent update happened in the early 1990s.

Fix said the irony of preaching the virtues of modern energy conservation in an outdated building was not lost on utility employees.

“The building had all single-pane glass,” she said. “So you’re in there talking to customers about energy efficiency and (the) importance of windows, the importance of ductless heat pumps types of things, but you’re operating in an environment (where) you can hear all the traffic outside, and it’s cold at the desk by the window because the elements are coming through.”

The first phase began in October 2016. It involved moving part of its customer service operations from the basement to the north side of the ground floor — where Clark once hosted an appliance repair department — and adding a parking lot just outside.

That work was finished last spring.

The second phase included upgrading the windows on two of three floors, adding a vestibule to the main entrance and changing the layout of the lobby. Customers were previously greeted by a brightly colored open space filled with rows of employee work stations. Now the lobby is split by a divider wall, with a handful of service employees out front.

When it’s all done, utility employees won’t have to go outside to collect payment from the drive-up payment box. Instead, there will be a pneumatic-tube delivery system similar to that at a bank drive-thru.

“It was a very open format. If (customers) wanted to, they could walk through to the back of the building,” Fix said. “We didn’t really have an issue with people doing that, it’s just that we didn’t want to have people doing that.”

Also, gone is the mauve and sea-foam green color scheme that covered the walls and furniture. Now the utility has settled for more neutral earth tones.

“When you’re making changes on the decade cycles, we try and go modest and timeless,” PUD spokeswoman Erica Erland said.

The utility said that customers won’t see the cost of the work reflected in their bill. Erland said the remodel constituted less than 1 percent of the utility’s annual budget and was planned for in advance.

Customers were allowed back into the main lobby in late February, but construction continues on the building.

The project is nearly completed, but the finishing touches, such as replacing the commission room’s doors, all should be finished within a few weeks, the utility said.

Columbian staff writer