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County, city looking at sharing public works facility

The city of Detroit Lakes and Becker County public works/highway departments are discussing a combined facility that could morph into combined services somewhere down the road.

For now though, they are simply looking at costs, benefits, feasibility and whether or not this is the right move for the two public entities.

“Both the county and the city have pretty antiquated facilities for their public works departments. There are a number of cities, counties and even the state at times that have gotten together and built joint facilities,” City Administrator Bob Louiseau said.

Each entity has their own equipment, salt sheds, etc., and standards on all those pieces.

“What they’ve found in a number of cases is that working together, they’ve been able to save money on building new facilities for both entities,” Louiseau said.

County Engineer Jim Olson agrees.

“The main reason would be a cost savings of a shared facility,” he said.

So the city and county are headed toward finding if this is the right fit for the two entities. They are looking to have an engineer or architect come in and evaluate the space needs of both and then determine if they should build together.

Members of both the city council and the county commission have been working together to draft a request for proposals regarding the facility needs analysis.

“We are going to solicit an architect for a needs assessment, where they come and look at our current facilities and our staff and our equipment and start the preliminary design and concepts on what we would need,” Olson said.

The building would more than likely be located north of town, along Tower Road, where there is land available.

After the study, the two entities will then sit down and see if it’s best for them to be under the same roof. They would then need to look at a facility agreement, which Louiseau said can come in many different forms.

“First though, we just need to know how much space is it going to require, would there be savings and what would those savings be? So that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.

For now, the combined facilities would be just that, facilities. Maybe in the future though, it could lead to combined staff.

“We haven’t talked specifically about staff. I think long term, the idea would be to consider if we could cooperate on some of the staffing, but we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Louiseau said.

First, he added, they need to analyze the facility needs.

On the city side, Louiseau said the public works equipment is stored in about eight to 10 different sites. Another issue is the size of the equipment has grown over the years, but the size of the building has not, making a tight fit in many of the facilities.

“One thing we’re pretty sure of is that we’ve used up all the space,” he added.

On the county side, Olson said their equipment and facilities are scattered as well.

“Our existing buildings are rather old,” he said. “Most all of our vehicles have to be parked outside. We need more space and more up-to-code buildings.

“If you look at our complex now, we are on three different (street) corners. Our materials are stored away from this close to the landfill.”

One yard though, he said, would be easy to manage and be a cost savings in not having to drive around to get to the various locations.

Ideally, the project would happen in the next year or so.

“I would expect the pace of this to pick up fairly soon,” Louiseau said.

Olson said the group would like to break ground in the spring of 2015.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.