County outgrows aging WCPW facilities

WashCo_logoThe Washington County Public Works Department must address the county’s infrastructure from it’s own crumbling infrastructure.

Both department facilities — the north shop in Stillwater Township and south shop in Woodbury — are beyond their service lives and have so many problems that WCPW officials told the Board of Commissioners during a Tuesday workshop that it is not economical to make repairs.

“What we need now is a plan for the future. Our Public Works facilities have not kept up with the county’s growth,” said Public Works Director Don Theisen.

The WCPW North building at 11660 Myeron Road was constructed in 1962 and is 50 years old. The WCPW South facility at 4037 Cottage Grove Drive in Woodbury was constructed in 1978, with an addition in 2000. Theisen said studies show both buildings are beyond their expected service lives. Neither structure is ADA compliant nor have fire sprinkler systems, he added.

“Public Works is the only staff working in buildings without sprinklers,” he said.
ADA compliance issues in both buildings include no handicapped-accessible restrooms, according to Theisen. Other issues include inadequate locker rooms for men and no women’s locker room at the north shop, he said.
And both structures experience moisture problems and are not energy efficient, he added.

“Our facilities are energy hogs,” he said, adding that both were constructed when energy efficiency was not an issue.

Both shops have maintenance and storage issues, Thiesen said. At the north shop, employees use forklifts to turn vehicles in the maintenance area because there is not enough space for vehicles to turn in the building, he added.

Lack of space forces the WCPW to store some of its $6 million fleet of vehicles and equipment outdoors, Theisen said. All WCPW equipment, including snow plows, are washed outdoors in all weather, he added.

Washing vehicles, especially trucks that spread road salt in the winter, is vital to keeping equipment working, Theisen said.

“This is critical to extend the life of the vehicle,” he said.

A separate issue at the North facility is the Washington County Sheriff’s Office vehicle storage and impound areas adjacent to the building. The WCSO stores it squad car fleet outdoors and the impound lot has security issues, Theisen said.

One major issue at the south facility is water quality, Theisen said. The state Department of Health has declared the south shop’s potable water unsafe.

“We’re providing bottled water to the staff,” he said.

Theisen presented three possible solutions to the WCPW’s facility issues. The first was doing more than $5.9 million code compliance and deferred maintenance at both facilities with no expansion to accommodate current and future needs, he said.

The second scenario calls for code compliance, deferred maintenance and expanding the north facility and building a new satellite south facility for a total cost of more than $23.2 million, Theisen said.

The third scenario is relocating the main WCPW operation center to the south facility, re-purpose the north facility as a satellite center with code compliance and deferred maintenance at an estimated cost of more than $27 million, Theisen said.
None of the scenarios mention WCSO vehicle storage requirements, which would cost almost $2 million, according to a WCPW report.

Currently, Thiesen said WCPW officials prefer Scenario B, with the county and city of Woodbury possibly sharing an expanded site south satellite location.

“Our focus would be on Scenario B. With the south building, our recommendation is that the building be abandoned and something new be built,” he said.

In a report to commissioners, Theisen recommends the county proceed with buying land in Woodbury for the south facility and develop drawings, cost estimates, a schedule and financing needs for Scenario B and WCSO needs.

But Theisen said there is no easy solution to his department’s facility issues.

“As with any complex project, there’s no silver bullet, no magic solution here,” he said.