The New Hope City Council has ordered a $50,000 feasibility study for an expansion to the public works garage on 5500 International Parkway. The garage last received a $1 million upgrade nearly 20 years ago.

The study, approved at the Oct. 28 council meeting, may mean action for a project that’s been postponed since 2016 due to the cost and planning of the new city hall/police station and Civic Center Park.

The main problem with the garage, which was built in 1979, is a lack of space. More than 200 vehicles are stored, not including attachments and equipment, and several have to be parked outdoors in the winter.

Public Works Director Bernie Weber said when he had first entered the trade, most vehicles were stored outside, but over time he realized the impact it could have on a crisis situation like a water main break. In the winter, dead batteries are common in the vehicles stored outdoors, and they constantly being covered in snow.

Vehicles stored outdoors are more likely to rust, the lack of space in the garage makes it difficult to get vehicles and equipment washed, and basic maintenance of the building has been deferred for some time.

When the issue came before the city council in 2016, the list of upgrades had included a designated wash bay, 20,000 square feet of expanded parking space, a 3,000 square-foot separate garage for garbage trucks, and a relocation of the fueling station. Coupled with the maintenance of painting, new flooring and asphalt, the cost in 2016 was expected to be $3.24 million. Today, city staff members believe the cost would closer to $4 million to $4.5 million.

Mayor Kathi Hemken warned that an approval of a feasibility study was not an approval of a $4 million project.

“The reason for the feasibility study is so we know what exactly needs to be done and what it would cost,” she said.

City Manager Kirk McDonald agreed and added the city just needs to “get the facts.”

The cost of the study is included in the 2019 budget. Saving funds has been ongoing since 2017 for the project. City officials had planned to take on debt to pay for the project, but staff members are recommending the city council consider paying for it internally.

Councilmember Jonathon London asked if there were any alternatives to avoid such a large expenditure and if the city could look to what private companies with large fleets of vehicles and equipment do.

Councilmember Cedrick Frazier agreed with London and asked Weber whether he believed the cost of the project would be recouped by extended the life cycle of vehicles and with less staff time repairing and preparing vehicles. Weber agreed. According to a city memorandum, the value of the vehicles stored outside totals $1.2 million.

McDonald mentioned that a public works garage had just been built in Crystal and that New Hope would include a review of that project in its process.

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