New highway shop part of courthouse plans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Behind the frenzy of the courthouse debate, another major capital improvement project for the county has been under discussion.

It is the expansion of the main highway shop near Interstate 35 on Bridge Avenue and the construction of a new truck station in Alden. The board was to review the proposal today and consider if the $600,000 cost should be included in a $25.7 million courthouse bond sale.

The renovations have been wanted by Highway Engineer Sue Miller for a long time. The expanded main shop will house the engineer’s office, which is currently in the courthouse, if the board OKs the plan.

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&uot;If there is a maintenance issue out there, our maintenance superintendent has to come up to the courthouse to research old construction plans,&uot; Miller said. &uot;Also, we need to duplicate all records here and there, doubling everything up.&uot;

The 5,000-square-foot addition to the main shop will accommodate new office space for engineers and administration, and the supervisor’s office. A 900-square-foot conference room can be used for training, and the garage accommodates nine tandem trucks and two motor graders.

The merge would also help mitigate a staff shortage for snowplowing, according to Miller. &uot;Our three engineering technicians are all certified. So, if we end up short for snowplow drivers in the morning, they can jump on, instead of waiting.&uot;

The Alden station would consolidate the existing services based in Hartland and Conger. The new facility would house two motor graders and one tandem truck along with two staff members.

Under the new courthouse plans by the architectural firm BKV Group, the highway engineer’s office would stay in the same location at the first floor of the old courthouse.

If the department does leave the courthouse, the existing space may be used for housing state offices such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Corrections that may otherwise need to find new space elsewhere. Miller also pointed out that the relocation would free up a maximum of 20 parking spots occupied by the engineering department’s cars and pooled department vehicles in downtown parking lots. Parking has been an issue as the county tries to find space to make up for spots that will be lost after the courthouse expansion.

County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen recommended combining the bonds for the highway facilities with the 20-year courthouse bonding, so the county can minimize costs associated with issuing the bonds.

The tax impact would depend on whether there is a referendum, but is within an additional $10 for homesteads, both residential and agricultural, that have less than $200,000 property value, according to estimates by bonding firm Evensen Dodge.