AEP to open service center in San Benito

SAN BENITO — AEP is coming back to town — this time with a $10 million service center.

After months of talks, city commissioners and members of the San Benito Economic Development Corporation last night approved an agreement in which AEP will move 110 to 150 jobs here, building a $10 million, 87,000-square-foot service center at the site of the city’s old airport.

“This is historic to me,” EDC board member Mark Moody said after a half-hour closed session meeting with City Attorney Ricardo Morado.

As part of the deal, the city will sell AEP 40 acres of airport land appraised at $1.6 million, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa said after the meeting.

Under the agreement, AEP will give the city an $867,000, 12,000-square-foot building on two acres at Bowie Street and Business 77 and $233,000 in cash, De La Rosa said.

To complete the deal, the EDC, on behalf of AEP, will give the city $500,000 to be used, in part, to help build the new AEP building and create jobs, De La Rosa said.

Before the meeting, AEP spokesman Daniel Lucio described the deal as “a land swap.”

“We’re giving up property for them,” Lucio said in an interview.

“We’re all holding our breath trying to get everything finalized. We’ve been going back and forth with negotiations. It’s been going on for a while.”

The service center, to be located off U.S. Business 77, will consolidate offices from five Harlingen locations.

The power company, which once had a district office in the city, selected San Benito as the site of its new service center to serve the eastern end of AEP’s Rio Grande Valley District.

Tom Coad, AEP Texas vice president of distribution operations, has said the service center will feature significant upgrades.

“In addition to having a site that provides multiple entry points to our service center property, the site meets all our construction requirements and offers 15 extra acres compared to our existing property,” Coad has said.

“This will be extremely valuable for storm restoration purposes while offering the possibility of future expansion as the Valley grows.”