Orono is looking into to the possibility of constructing a new Public Works facility after securing the necessary land in January and releasing last week an RFP for architectural and engineering services.

The current facility—a quarter century old and due for roof repair and other fixes—has a capacity no longer sufficient for the new equipment it holds, said Adam Edwards, city engineer and director of Public Works for Orono.

That might be the most immediate indication that a change is needed, but residential growth that has altered the landscape along Kelley Parkway these past 25 years is also feeding into the city’s planning.

“Back-up alarms; bucket loaders scraping the grounds, scooping up gravel or salt—we’re cognizant of the amount of noise and maybe disturbance of having a facility right in the middle of a high density residential area,” said Edwards.

Right now, though, it’s more a matter of being prepared.

“It’s not a 100 percent for sure thing that it’s going to happen, as far as actually constructing the building or exactly what the timeline is,” said Edwards. That’s something that will in part be guided by response to the RFP and allow the city to “start trying to rough out what this thing looks like and what the real costs are.”

The new facility, if built, is likely to be about 20 percent larger than the current building on Kelley. Council had approved last fall the $340,000 land purchase from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for 6.75 acres at 365 Old Crystal Bay Rd. with the intention of building a new Public Works facility and possibly a new fire station.

A feasibility study completed last summer had placed a $9.8 million price tag on a 34,600-square foot building. Since then, the square footage has been upped to 38,900 at the potential added cost of between $430,000 and $860,000. Project details and huge variances in the cost per square foot of construction—between $100 and $200—are behind the uncertainty said Edwards. The full cost range, according to information supplied by the city, is anywhere from $6.4 million to $11.3 million.

The city is currently planning to fund project costs with municipal bonds; Edwards said he did not foresee any further increase in resident utility fees as a result of this project. Orono residents are already eating a spike in these fees that went into effect in January.

The option of building a new fire department station on the same site as a future Public Works facility seems less of a possibility now than it did last summer. Edwards said that the station is not a main driver in the project but that the land purchased would be able to hold a station if later the city decided it was needed.

The tentative timeline now is to receive RFP responses on the Public Works building by end of the month, complete final designs by end of year and award construction contracts next March. Building construction, if all moves ahead, is expected to take place in summer and fall of next year.

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