By TIM HORAN
SOLOMON—Water has plagued the DS&O building from the beginning, when the first lines went up just north of Solomon in 1937.
Water had breached the building four times —1951, 1973, 1993 and 2008 — and CEO and DS&O General Manager Don Hellweg said he was sweating bullets last month when floodwaters closed Old Highway 40.
Thus, it seemed fitting that the day of the groundbreaking ceremony for the utilities new $8 million building located in Solomon was rained out Monday afternoon.
Rather than wade through the mud and the rain, members of the DS&O board of directors, Solomon City Council, members of the press, contractors and employees gathered at the Sunny Side Hardware Store in downtown Solomon.
Hellweg said the DS&O federal mortgage will not allow the utility to do a major overhaul of the current location on W. Main in Solomon, creating the need for the new building. He said a private company could haul in soil to form a pad that would solve the flood plain issue. DS&O can not.
The only viable solution was to build a new building, something that has been discussed for at least seven years. Working with Abilene Machine owners Randy and Todd Roelofsen and Mike Aufdemberge, DS&O acquired land north of the Marvin Brown Jr. Football Field but south of Interstate 70. Currently work has started.
Sitting on 9.92 acres, the 42,000 square foot facility will house everything under one roof. Hellweg said that currently six different buildings are used and none of them are large enough to house any of the trucks and only some of the equipment.
The building will have about 17,000 square feet of office space with 4,000 underground, 17,000 square feet for parking, and about 8,000 in between for material management, Hellweg said.
“For the first time in the history of his company we will have everything under one fence,” he said. “We’ll have on site fuel so we will never have to go into another ice storm wondering where we are going to get diesel fuel on weekends. There are just a lot of things that are going to improve our efficiency.
“If the weather cooperates, by that, if we don’t get an early winter, if they can get the concrete in the basement down before cold weather, then we are looking at moving in June,” he said. “A more practical date is mid July. But certainly by late summer.”
The company is named after Dickinson, Saline and Ottawa Counties, the counties the utility served first. It also now serves portions of Cloud, Montgomery and Geary counties and includes some in Ellsworth and Marion.
“The focal point of the counties is just a couple miles north of here,” Hellweg said, adding that is one of the key reasons the utility wanted to stay in Solomon. “The first lines were built just north of here and that’s how the name came to be.”
“DS&O started here and we are excited that they decided to stay,” said Solomon Mayor Steve Britt. “We want to do everything we can at the city to help this project along. Hopefully this will be an anchor for more business adventures in that area. We want to wish the DS&O the best of luck and congratulations.”
Originally, the site was 11.2 acres. Hellweg said when the utility went to apply for the environmental permits, it was going to take up to six months.
“Or, if you can keep it under 10 acres, we can get the permits for you in about four weeks,” Hellweg said.
The facility is now on 9.92 acres.