PIE&G in ‘holding pattern’ on HQ move

ONAWAY — Officials with the Presque Isle Electric and Gas Co-op are waiting to determine the location of its new headquarters and service center until the results of soil tests come back.

The utility company is planning to build a new, $15 million to $20 million headquarters and service center either at its current property in Allis Township or the Presque Isle County-owned Onaway Airport.

Company officials in June requested the Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners give the airport property to PIE&G in exchange for the the company paying the costs required to execute the transfer of the property.

The company’s proposal to the county board also came with conditions, one of which stipulated that the conditional transfer of the property takes place by Aug. 1.

However, the company has yet to get the results from its site survey, another condition in the proposal, and President and CEO Tom Sobek said the company “is in a holding pattern” until the results come back.

Sobek said the utility is having the soil tested at both sites for structural soundness, the results of which officials are expecting “any time now.” Sobeck said officials will use the results to determine the preferred location and that, depending on which site is selected, the company will either go to the county board and ask commissioners to continue the process, or they’ll bow out and build on their current location.

The company’s plan calls for the construction of about 32,000 square feet of office space and about 138,000 square feet of garage and warehouse space.

Sobek said he doesn’t anticipate the wait for the test results will impact the project’s completion date. The design process was expected to be completed in the fall, with construction to begin next year, according to the plan submitted to county commissioners.

Meanwhile, an Oakland County man is suing the county board for allowing the airport to fall into disrepair and closing the airport while his lease with the county remains in effect. He’s seeking $25,000 for breach of his contract that was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, according to court records.

Sobek said he doesn’t expect that lawsuit would prevent PIE&G from obtaining the Onaway Airport property.

Sobek said the company began exploring the idea of constructing a new headquarters and service center about three years ago. The company’s current facility was built in 1955, he said, when the company had 42 employees and 13,000 meters. He said the company currently has 80 employees and about 49,000 meters.

“Once you start looking at it from that perspective, the need becomes fairly obvious,” he said. “It’s an old building, and we don’t fit any more.”

PIE&G provides electricity and natural gas to customers in nine counties, including Alpena, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.