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Building a part of Qwest sale

La.-based CenturyLink to control Downtown site, Qwest exec says.


By Dennis Darrow

The Pueblo Chieftain

December 11, 2010

 Any change in the future use of the Qwest building in Downtown won't become known until after the company's sale to CenturyLink goes through, according to Qwest's state division president.

   Chuck Ward of Denver, who recently visited Pueblo as part of Qwest's school outreach program, said CenturyLink will decide any future changes in use for the building at 221 W. Fourth St.

   Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink and Qwest announced in April a sale deal expected to close in the first quarter of next year. CenturyLink will control the merged companies.

   Qwest's large multistory building in Downtown houses critical telephone line routing equipment on its upper floors and also a large microwave communications tower on its rooftop.

   Other parts of the building are used less and the building also houses few workers following decades of mergers, consolidation and online advances in the telecommunications industry.

   In March, a 75-worker Qwest directory assistance center that operated at the building was closed as a cost-saving move and its operations merged with a center in Midvale, Utah.

    The building was constructed by Mountain Bell a predecessor to Qwest in phases in the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to The Pueblo Chieftain's archives. The building incorporated some parts of a smaller building that housed the city's early telephone service provider, Mountain States Telephone.

    Ward said he does not know CenturyLink's long-term plans for the building, including whether the company would ever consider leasing out any vacant space to other companies.

   One of the difficulties to leasing out space in the building is the presence of the telecommunications equipment, which requires high security, Ward said.

   He expects CenturyLink will conduct a review of all of Qwest's holdings nationwide before determining long-range plans for the properties, he said.

   Ward, a longtime industry veteran, will leave Qwest when the merger becomes final. He was named president of Qwest five years ago. He previously worked as an executive for AT&T.

   The dwindling demand for directory assistance operators led to Qwest's decision to consolidate its centers, Ward said. More customers are using cell phones and Internet directories, he said.

   Such consolidation moves usually follow site comparisons using a host of factors, including geography, market needs, cost and space utilization, he said.

   The directory assistance centers hold a special place for him, Ward said. Early in his career he helped manage a large directory assistance center operation in St. Louis, he noted.

  The sale of Qwest to CenturyLink will result in cuts to many high-ranking Qwest jobs in Denver but, softening the losses, Denver has been named one of six regional headquarters for the company, he said.

   Qwest employs about 7,500 workers in Colorado and the bulk of them will retain their jobs under CenturyLink, which has a minimal presence in the state, he said.

    The sale requires approval from regulators in nearly 40 states and also the federal government, Ward said. "Our merger is progressing," Ward said. "We've made a lot of progress."