Both Becker County and Detroit Lakes are planning to build new public works buildings for their staff, snowplows, sanding trucks, pickups and shop equipment, and now they will take one more shot at working together on a joint facility.
Unhappy with the terms of a land swap proposed by the city, Becker County in November 2017 decided to drop the idea of a shared-use compound off North Tower Road and build its own public works facility near the new jail on Highway 59 North.
The county wanted an even swap with the city-about 7.5 acres of buildable land at the North Tower Road site for about 7.7 acres of land at the Highway 59 North site. But the city wasn't willing to go with an even swap, and asked the county to offer a counterproposal if its initial proposal was not acceptable.
Instead, the county board decided to take a closer look at building its new public works facility on the Highway 59 North site.
They both have the same architectural firm (Oertel Architects of St. Paul) working on their public works plans, so they have decided to split the $6,800 cost of having the firm look at a joint facility. The county approved the study Tuesday, July 16. The city will consider it next month.
The architects will look at three options:
• A fully shared facility;
• a hybrid version of that;
• and two separate facilities in the same complex on Tower Road-with shared wash bay, fuel bay and stormwater runoff infrastructure.
"What I want this study to tell us is if there is significant cost-saving in a combined building," county commissioner Barry Nelson said.
Cost comparisons for the three options would be included by the architect, said Becker County Highway Engineer Jim Olson.
Detroit Lakes City Administrator Kelcey Klemm attended the Becker County Board meeting Tuesday and said he believed the council will go along with paying for half the study.
"I think there's support for it," he said. "I don't see it being a hiccup."
Commissioner John Okeson said that with a square lot and about 9 acres of buildable area, the city site on North Tower Road is roomier and might be easier to work with than the county site near the new jail on Highway 59 north.
"With a bigger, rectangular lot, things fit on there a little better," he said.
Commissioner Ben Grimsley was concerned that the county stick with the idea of two county buildings in its new public works complex-a durable shop-maintenance building and a less expensive storage-parking building-whether the county partners with the city or not.
But if the cost savings of the partnership are great enough, Nelson said it might make sense to put the whole county public works facility under one roof.
In February, the preliminary design of a new $8 million Becker County Highway Department building was unveiled, but a divided county board decided to explore options for a less expensive facility.
The existing highway department site is well-maintained, but cramped and lacks efficiency, since highway equipment is much larger than it was 100 years ago, and the fuel pumping station there needs to be upgraded or cleaned up. The main shop building, in particular is quite old and has ventilation and other issues.
The county highway department complex has long been located near the BNSF railroad tracks on the north side of Detroit Lakes, a few blocks west of the city street department complex on Roosevelt Avenue.
The city site is also older and cramped-at times equipment is parked in shop buildings three deep and has to be moved and reparked.
If it goes it alone, the city's proposed public works facility is expected to cost about $4 million, based on parameters set by a space needs study completed by Oertel in 2014.