Construction of a new district office for Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative Corp. has begun on the cooperative’s property at 5600 N. Arkansas 59 in Van Buren.

The new 22,000 square foot facility will feature a fully functional operations center with vehicle storage and equipment warehouse, according to Bill Peters, CEO of Arkansas Valley Electric.

There also will be a fully staffed payment center with drive through windows and after hours kiosk.

"The Van Buren district office has been in planning for over two years," Peters said. "Crawford County has been the cooperative’s largest and fastest growing area for over a decade and we anticipate similar growth for the foreseeable future.

Peters said the office will ultimately save the cooperative money due to decreased cost associated with transportation and travel time for crews working in and around the county and through increased gains in efficiencies and productivity.

The new office is expected to open in September 2014. The Pointer Trail location will no longer be used as a payment center; however Arkansas Valley may utilize it for some other purpose.

"It may also be put on the market," Peters said. "We are still weighing options."

The cost of the facility will not impact rates, he said.

"This project is not an expense that hits our bottom line in a single year," Peters said. "It is an investment in our infrastructure paid over time."

Arkansas Valley Electric believes members in the area will realize several benefits from the new facility such as faster response and restoration times during power outages, Peters said.

Members also will be able meet with various co-op representatives.

The new facility will be built to Energy Star guidelines.

"AVECC will use innovative technologies like LED lighting and a geothermal heat and air system to substantially reduce energy use and operating costs," Peters said.