County eyes new $1.25 million shop in Westboro
The Taylor County Highway Committee at its meeting on Tuesday was updated on the plans for a new Rib Lake shop on county-owned land near the wayside on Hwy 13 by Westboro.
Highway commissioner Ben Stanfley told the committee the original plan was for a building with an 80x120foot unheated storage area and 80x120-foot heated maintenance area with a 20-foot wide lean-to on one side of the building with an estimated cost of $1.5 million plus $68,000 for engineering costs. Stanfley said he refigured the numbers and came up with a building with a 70x120 foot unheated area and 70x120-foot heated area at a estimated cost of $1.25 million with engineering costs. He said the current Rib Lake shop building is 60x120 feet.
Stanfley said part of the building would be used by the forestry department for vehicle and equipment storage and that forestry would contribute approximately $200,000 toward the cost of the project. He said forestry would have one full heated bay and one full unheated bay for their equipment.
Committee chairman Scott Mildbrand asked if that would include space for the forestry department to move its offices to the new building, adding he was opposed to the idea. Stanfley said it was just for equipment storage and adding space for their offices would add at least $75,000 to the cost of the project.
Finance director Larry Brandl asked if the forestry department was thinking about moving to the new building, had it been discussed with the forestry committee. He said it made no sense because the county has enough issues with computers and phones in outlying areas in the northern part of the county, adding he was not willing to spend another dime of taxpayer money on something like that that was not needed.
Mildbrand asked if Brandl was in favor of spending taxpayer money on unheated storage. Brandl said he could see spending money on storage, but not moving the department to the new facility. Mildbrand said he assumed moving forestry to the new building would have to be a full county board decision. Brandl agreed.
Committee member James Gebauer asked where forestry had its equipment stored now. Buildings and grounds director Jeff Ludwig said they have a bay in the highway department’s unheated shop by the fairgrounds. Ludwig said the sheriff’s department has a bay next to forestry for storage and if something could be worked out to find some other place to move the sheriff’s department items, forestry could then have that bay for its storage and it wouldn’t necessarily have to move to the new Rib Lake shop. Both Ludwig and Brandl agreed they needed to find out what all of the department’s storage issues and needs are before proceeding too much further with the project.
Mildbrand asked Ludwig if the current Rib Lake shop was beyond repair. Ludwig said, in his opinion, it did not pay to invest any more money into the building. He added he wasn’t saying the building could not be salvaged.
Ludwig went on to say building the new Rib Lake facility would address some of the issues with the highway shop in Medford, like storage issues. He said in the longterm, it was a very good idea since the current Rib Lake facility had very little extra area around the building to store materials, like gravel and culverts. Ludwig said any building can be repaired if you are willing to spend the money, but spending that money wouldn’t make the current building serve the highway department’s purposes any better.
Mildbrand asked Ludwig if building the facility near Westboro would end talk about building a new facility in Medford. Ludwig replied it would put it off “for a very long time.” He said eventually a new facility will have to be built in Medford, but a new shop near Westboro will prolong the time before the county will need a new facility in Medford by relieving some of the storage issues. Ludwig said regardless, he thought it was very wise for the highway department to have satellite facilities in both Rib Lake and Gilman, resulting in more efficiency and savings for the public.
Mildbrand asked if removing the two bays for forestry from the design would bring the cost down to around a $1 million. Stanfley said it most likely would. Brandl cautioned the committee not to rush into doing that just to save costs. He said the committee has to look at this in the long-term. Brandl said in the past, the county had built smaller to save money and it has been proven over time that the county would have been better off if it had went bigger. Brandl said the county has the storage needs if it builds the larger shop and borrowing rates are good at this time that he thought it would be money well spent to do it now and hopefully meet future needs.
Ludwig said if the highway committee does move forward with the new Rib Lake shop and the county needs to borrow a large sum of money for the project, the county should also look at borrowing money to purchase the Bauer and Miller properties. He said one of the biggest issues with building a new shop in Medford was trying to get it to fit on the footprint of the property where the current shop is located, which has “pushed the idea away.” He said with the storage issues with the sheriff’s, highway and forestry departments and their future needs 10 or 20 years down the road, it just made sense for the county to have a serious discussion about purchasing those properties, especially the Bauer property. Committee members Rollie Thums and Earl Hinkel both agreed with Ludwig that the county should purchase those properties.
Following further discussion, Mildbrand said the highway committee needs to define that project better and wait until the forestry committee or county board decides whether or not the forestry department wants to move before moving forward. He suggested asking for discussion time at the county board meeting in February to talk about the project and give other departments an opportunity to bring up issues related to it. In the meantime, the committee asked Stanfley to come up with estimates for a new Rib Lake shop for just the highway department to be presented to the county board. The rest of the committee agreed with the suggestion.