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By Kevin W. Green | Source

Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry gets ready to do a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the PG&E Gas Operation Technical Training Center, in Winters on Monday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry gets ready to do a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the PG&E Gas Operation Technical Training Center, in Winters on Monday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

WINTERS — Local dignitaries and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. representatives gathered under a giant white tent Monday for a ceremony to break ground at the site of the utility’s new $75 million Gas Operations Technical Training Center.

The state-of-the-art training center will be located just off Interstate 505 on East Grant Avenue in Winters.

“This facility is now the front door to our city,” said Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.

The 60,000-square-foot, single-story building is expected to staff about 50 full-time employees when completed, with 100 to 150 students on site daily.

The need for more comprehensive training stemmed from meetings that took place in the aftermath of the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010, according to Nick Stavropoulos, president of PG&E, Gas. Two goals were developed, that of increasing employees and increasing training, he said.

“In order to become the safest, most reliable utility in the nation, we must provide our employees with access to the best tools, technology and training,” he said. “We are completely committed to maintaining and recruiting the industry’s best workforce and this facility is a perfect example of our ongoing investment in our employees.”

PG&E’s vision was to create the best training center in the world, Stavropoulos said.

“We have an incredible obligation to ensure the safety of everyone,” he said. “We take that responsibility very seriously.”

Stavropoulos thanked Aguiar-Curry for working with his company to make the project a success.

“Our team really valued your support in making this a reality,” he said. “We’re excited to be part of the community.”

Stavropoulos also thanked PG&E workers who participated in the design of the training center.

“It’s always challenging in doing a project of this size and scale,” he said.

Aguiar-Curry echoed similar thoughts in talking about the public-private partnership between the city and the utility.

“We have had many challenges to get here today,” she said.

Aguiar-Curry described her strategy, after PG&E staff initially approached city officials, of pursuing company executives to convince them Winters would be the best site for the training facility. She was finally successful after convincing a key decision-maker to visit the area, she said.

The subsequent process included a series of approximately 27 public meetings on the project, she said.

“We are excited to partner with PG&E to build this critically important training center in our city,” Aguiar-Curry said. “As we move forward, I’m excited about the positive impact this facility and partnership will have on our vibrant community.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis; Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa; and a representative of Rep. John Garamendi’s office joined Winters and Yolo officials in Monday’s ceremony.

Construction of the training facility is slated to be completed in late 2016, with operations to be fully ramped up in 2017, Stavropoulos said. The center is expected to generate $300,000 to $500,000 in new property tax, according to PG&E.

The center is designed to give employees classroom-based and hands-on opportunities to learn the latest industry practices and skills, PG&E said. The company said it will ensure industry best-practices are used in the center and the development of the curriculum.

The curriculum will also focus on public safety and first responder training.

The 7.1-acre facility will include the primary indoor technical training area with classrooms, labs and offices; a service yard and a pipe-fitting training area.