FortisBC waits for BCUC’s approval to break ground on Castlegar project

The proposed Kootenay Operations Centre would consolidate operations for Warfield and South Slocan.

FortisBC is awaiting approval to build a new centralized operations centre in Castlegar, following the completion of the British Columbia Utilities Commission’s (BCUC) public proceedings.

The utility company addressed over 400 questions over two rounds of information requests, which wrapped up in December.

The interveners and commission asked questions about a broad range of topics, including cost, project design and scope, rate impacts, and project justification for the proposed $20.7 million facility slated for Ootischenia, south of the West Kootenay Regional Airport. This process has now closed, and BCUC is scheduled to make a decision this spring.

The proposed Kootenay Operations Centre would consolidate operations from FortisBC’s Warfield complex, South Slocan generation site and potentially Castlegar district office, which was added as an amendment during the proceedings (bumping up the bill to $22.4 million, which would be offset by long-term savings).

Nicole Bogdanovic, FortisBC’s corporate communications advisor, said the proposed change in location is a cost-saving measure that will not impact staffing numbers.

“There are other factors that determine the resources we need to meet our business goals and to serve the area so really this is just to make sure that we’re able to meet that service at the lowest reasonable cost,” she told the Trail Times.

“I think it’s important to know that the South Slocan building, in particular, is over 100 years old, it’s reached the end of its life, and it’s more costly to maintain that building than it is to put a facility in place that meets our current modern service standards.

“And, the problem with Warfield is space constraints.”

The number of people that work at the Warfield complex can vary, but there are 40 network service positions (Kootenay station service personnel) proposed for relocation, she confirmed. This list is shared by 11 positions based out of the Castlegar district office, which operates regional network services and related support positions such as power line technicians, substation electricians support staff and other field crews that work with transmission and distribution.

South Slocan, which takes care of general administration, warehousing and plant operation, accounts for 42 proposed positions.

The company plans on keeping these three facilities but how they will be used in future is yet to be determined.

“It’s good to keep in mind that this is only 15 to 20 minutes away from where they are now, and many of these positions such as power line technicians already work in the field, so it doesn’t necessarily impact their commute,” added Bogdanovic.

FortisBC should find out whether it can move forward with its plans in March and if given the go ahead will break ground as early as spring, with plans of being operational in 2017.