Columbia County Water Utility customers soon will have to visit the new facility near Grovetown to do anything more than drop off a payment.
The office on Evans to Locks Road will be closed Friday while the customer service staff move to the new administration building on William Few Parkway behind the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
“We’ll actually close for the day,” Water Utility Director William Clayton said. “Our plans are to be open here (at the new building) on Monday the 22nd.”
Since the 32,000-square-foot building was completed in May, Clayton said several Water Utility departments have moved, including Engineering, Metering and managers. The customer service staff are the last ones to move.
Residents can leave payments in a drop box at the Evans to Locks Road building, which will be occupied by county employees. But all other needs will have to be handled at the new location.
“They can still drop (payments) there,” Clayton said. “They can call us on the phone. We can take care of any business you need on the phone. Or you’re sure welcome to come see us. ... The need to actually come in the office has actually gotten less and less.”
The new location, Clayton said, is a central location about equidistant from residents around the service area, which extends almost to Thomson, and the McDuffie County line.
The building was constructed on the same campus as facilities housing the distribution and conveyance maintenance and mechanics departments. All Water Utility staff except those working in the laboratory will be on the same site.
“This kind of puts us all back on the same piece of property,” Clayton said. “I can’t tell you the difference in productivity. Just being able to be on the same grounds with your folks at all times makes a difference.”
Plans to build a new lab on the site are in the works and Clayton said he hopes to move that staff after it’s complete in about two years.
Construction on the two-story administration building, which has a $3.9 million price tag, started in January 2012. It provides much needed space for staff.
“I love it,” Water Quality Manager Margaret Doss said her new office. “I had an office. It was little.”
Doss’ new office is big enough to display her collection of baseball caps and nature photos. Her framed photos also hang throughout the building.
“The coolest part for me of this whole deal is getting to have all my photographs on the wall.”
Clayton, who took over as Water Utility director in 1979, said he remembers operating out of an uninsulated metal butler building on Davis Road. In 1981, the department moved to the Evans to Locks Road location, which was added onto in 1992.
The new building is technologically up to date with state of the art electronics and security systems.
There’s also plenty of unfinished space left to accommodate future growth.
“Never in my life did I think we would end up with something like this, never in my history here,” Clayton said.
“I hope this facility will last them 50 years or better. It should. That’s my hope. And that the county doesn’t have to invest any more money in the type of basic infrastructure that you just have to stop and do every now and then.”