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Little Canada to construct combined public works, parks maintenance building
$3.9 million project to be completed by spring 2015
Little Canada city staff and officials were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony July 23 on a piece of land that over the coming months will become a 26,000-square-foot public works and park maintenance building.
The long-anticipated new building at the intersection of Centerville and Labore roads, which is expected to cost about $3.9 million, is a pet project of Mayor Bill Blesener’s, as both council member Rick Montour and city administrator Joel Hanson pointed out.
“This [facility] was one of my top priorities,” Blesener agreed.
Hanson said the construction of the new facility has been a formal goal of the city council’s for about 10 years, but Blesener said it’s been on his agenda for much longer.
“When I first got on the council in 1984-85, one of the first things a staff member did was grab me by the arm and say, ‘Come look at this [public works] garage,’” he said. “Even when [the current facility] was built, it was obsolete. That’s the way the city did things for awhile.
“Here we are, 30 years later, finally building something that will enable the city to do things that public works and parks should be able to do.”
The new facility will have room to house the city’s maintenance equipment, ranging from lawn mowers to ice rink sweepers to chainsaws, as well as much-needed staff areas like locker rooms and a place to eat lunch.
“We’ve got people jumping all over the place looking for things,” Blesener explained. “I think it’s a good location. It’s not in the middle of the city, but it’s in a location where public works and parks can get to it in a convenient manner.”
City won’t use property taxes for funding
In his State of the City address in April, Blesener proudly informed residents the facility would not be built using any property tax dollars.
“We have...issued debt to pay for our new public works/parks maintenance facility,” he wrote. “The council felt it was wise to issue debt for this project given we are still in a period of historically low interest rates.”
The $3.4 million debt issued for the building will be repaid over a 20-year period.
“We had a really good [steering] committee that worked on keeping the cost down,” Blesener said.
The land upon which the new facility will be built was formerly owned by Brings Onions, which is now located in New Brighton. Until they sold it to Little Canada, the family still owned the property.
Brings Co. President Pat Coan, daughter of the company’s founder, said it was “a little sad” to not have the company based in Little Canada anymore.
“There were a million pounds of onions that came through this lot,” she said. “I’m proud to see what’s all being done here.”
Montour thanked surrounding neighbors of the property and expressed gratitude toward city leadership for their hard work.
“Thanks to the city council for thinking of the long-term needs of the city,” he said.
Staff ‘excited’ about added space
“There’s things we’ll be able to do in this building that we can’t do [in the current building],” Blesener told the Review.
City staff says insufficient space is one of the main issues the new building will address.
Parks and recreation director Jim Morelan says parks maintenance and public works share a lot of equipment, so the new combined space will save time and effort for both departments.
“It would be better to have a joint facility because we utilize each others’ equipment back and forth,” Morelan said. “I’m looking forward to having everything in one location. We’ll be more efficient.”
The department maintains over 100 acres of park land, he said, so having all the parks maintenance staff in one place along with the necessary equipment will save a lot of time.
Public works superintendent Bill Dircks says the project was “well over budget” after each department initially made a wish list for the building. Even so, he says he’s happy with what will go into the facility, especially two bays dedicated to vehicle maintenance and cleaning.
“Now there’ll be a dedicated bay with the necessary tools, better lighting and welding equipment. We already do a pretty good job of cleaning equipment, but the wash bay will help us do a better job of keeping our equipment clean year-round. It’ll be that much easier.”
Dircks says the city’s maintenance vehicles are currently double-parked in two 7,000 square-foot public works buildings. The new facility will nearly double that capacity.
Moving the city’s 19 vehicles including pickups, dump trucks, tractors and utility trucks among others, in and out of the facilities can be a headache, he said. Plus, there’s other smaller equipment to consider including mowers, rollers, turf maintenance equipment and chainsaws, to name a few.
“We’re very excited about [the additional space],” Dircks said.
If everything goes according to plan, the facility should be completed in spring 2015.
Montour explained that Blesener, who could not be at the groundbreaking ceremony for medical reasons, had hoped to have the facility completed by the end of his term in December.
“[We came] pretty close to that,” Montour said.
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.