County begins moving into new Public Works building
At a total budgeted cost of $10,752,000, Steele County’s new Public Works Building will begin its fully operation status this summer. Some county staff have already begun moving into the new facility, which is located just off Highway 14.
“We received a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy this week. This allows us to start moving into the building and our Highway Maintenance operation is doing that this week,” County Engineer Greg Ilkka said. “They will be operating out of the facility as of Monday, though the Highway Department will not be conducting public business out of there yet,” he added.
“Our Engineering and Administrative staff won’t move out there from our current office in the County Annex building until the parking lots and drives have been paved and landscaping completed, at which time the building will be opened for public business,” Ilkka said. “We anticipate that to occur around June 1. The paving is subject to the weather.”
The building contains a total of 37,000 square feet, which gives the public works department much more room for staff and equipment. “It’s flexible if you look at the footprint of the building,” Building Construction Project Manager Al Forsberg said. “The building is the size that meets the needs efficiently but there’s also an undeveloped 6,000 square feet above the office that could also be utilized.”
Forsberg explained that the previous building was flooded several times and was not feasible for the staff who had to move into a contracted building which cost around $15,000 to $16,000 a month. “It’s been a long road to get a new building planned and designed,” he said. “But now it’s on schedule and on budget.”
The county received monetary assistance from a $1.6 million FEMA grant and $4 million from the State Department of Employment and Economic Development. This lowered the total cost for the county by $5.6 million and allowed the new building to be constructed with a smaller budget.
“It has a 75-year lifespan,” Forsberg explained. “It meets the state energy requirements and is a very energy efficient building. The old building was not adequate for the current size of equipment and didn’t meet healthy ADA requirements.”
With the new building set to open, the county will determine a time for an open house so that the public can take a look at the new facility and all that it has to offer. The open house has not been set yet.
“The Highway Maintenance operation has been working out of a leased facility for the last nine years, a facility, that while adequate, was not designed for the use,” Ilkka said of the need for the new building. “The new facility, specifically designed for this purpose, will make the operation more efficient.”
Ilkka continued to explain the benefits, saying that, “in addition, it will consolidate both the maintenance and engineering functions under one roof, which again makes the entire operation more efficient, as well as effective, because the barriers to communication are removed.”
“Also, we have been storing our winter salt and sand mix at the MnDOT site, several blocks from our leased facility. With our new salt storage shed at the new site we will no longer have to move loaders back and forth for each storm,” he added.
The Minnesota climate had also been an issue for some equipment storage in the county’s old facilities. “Next week, the construction of a cold storage building (a pole barn structure) will begin on the site and should be complete by mid-May,” Ilkka said. “It will be used for storage of equipment and materials so they don’t have to stay out in the weather.”
Once the parking lots and the cement work is finished, the county’s public works staff will be able to relocate to the new building and begin to enjoy its benefits. “We are all very excited about this new chapter and extremely grateful to the citizens of Steele County for their support!” Ilkka said.