LCUB buys land
30 acres will cost $3 million

Stephanie Myers-News Herald

Lenoir City Council approved purchasing a $3 million, 30-acre site along Creekwood Park Boulevard on Monday afternoon to house Lenoir City Utilities Board's next main office complex.

In addition to the $3 million price tag, LCUB will trade the two-acre property along Broadway Street in downtown Lenoir City to seller Creekwood Properties.

The board stressed customers would not see a rate increase. The sale is expected to close in 60 days.

Architectural planning will soon begin on a proposed 100,000-square-foot complex, which will house administrative offices and all equipment, on the Creekwood property.

LCUB General Manager Shannon Littleton said the only utility operation that will not move to the new site is the utility's plants. If everything "goes perfectly" with weather and other issues, the new complex should be constructed in 18-24 months, he said.

"I say 36 months," board member Harry Wampler said following a called Lenoir City Council meeting to approve LCUB's site recommendation.

"He is probably correct," Littleton added.

Littleton said the Creekwood site was the "best location," which includes an on-site water source that could be tapped by the utility.

"And if not that, we can certainly use it for geothermal," Littleton said. "...With geothermal we can use it for waste water, we could use it to wash vehicles.

It's free water essentially, which saves ratepayers."

Out with old plans

The downtown Lenoir City parcel was once considered for a new Lenoir City Hall and then the LCUB complex.

"We were going to build just administrative offices, and when we got a full understanding of the entire complex we kind of figured out we didn't have enough land to do what we really needed to do," Littleton said.

LCUB originally purchased the downtown land after the city nixed plans for a new city hall. Littleton said the transfer brought the Creekwood price down "significantly."

"What I did when dealing with Creekwood partners I simply said, 'I want the best price we can achieve by trading in our property and you give us the best trade-in value.' I essentially did that with every landowner that was in question, and this was the best deal for LCUB," he said.

Among the three properties LCUB considered, Creekwood was "toward the middle of the road" in terms of price, Littleton said.

"But when you put in the fact that it was probably the best location for us then that really made it the best price," he said.

At a called meeting late last month, the board considered three sites for LCUB's use, including locations along Town Creek Parkway and the intersection of Highway 321 and Highway 70 near Eaton Elementary and North Middle schools. All three sites had positives and negatives for LCUB's use, but Littleton said the Creekwood site caught his attention. Issues with the other sites included unusable land and school traffic concerns."We really came down on this site simply because it was the best accessibility for our customers and our employees to access the customers," Littleton said.

The utility began discussing a new complex in earnest in March.

Yale building?

At Monday's meeting, the board briefly entertained using the vacant Yale Locks & Hardware building as a potential home.

Board members, along with LCUB chairman and Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens, expressed discontent with the Yale site, saying the more than 200,000-square-foot building and consider the cost going in there and renovating the building to meet our needs ... the expense you're going to have to near top what you're going to have out here (at Creekwood)," Wampler said during the meeting," And you've still got a building that was built in 1953 and does not do what we need it to do."

"I think we ought to leave it alone in case some big business or something wants to come in here," board member Bobby Johnson, Sr. said.

The Yale site is listed for $3.4 million through commercial real estate company NAI Knoxville.

Littleton said the fate for the current main office has not yet been considered.

With outdated technology, overcrowding and other issues, Littleton and Aikens said it was time to make the move from the circa-1954 main office in downtown Lenoir City.

"The time travel is starting to hurt us now. There are so many signal lights and things we've got to deal with just on a daily basis with traffic issues," Littleton said.

"As he said, we've got 80-plus percent of our customers in Knox County, and we want to be out on that end," Aikens said. "We will be able to hit Highway 70. We will be able to go up there and hit Campbell Station, Watt Road."