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Construction on city's new public works facility continues

The city's new public works facility is being constructed to accommodate future growth.

The project may not be glamorous, like the Diamond Point Park reconstruction, but it will result in a functional facility, said Public Works Director Andy Mack.

"This is the nuts and bolts," he said. "This is where the work gets done."

The nearly $8 million facility, located north of Fifth Street Northwest, is expected to be done by Aug. 1, 2008, although city employees may begin occupying the building late next spring, Mack said.

Once complete, the facility will house city workers from the public works, parks, sewer and water and engineering departments.

The public works building is 100 feet by 450 feet and covers 67,500 square feet.

In addition to the main building, the public works complex also features two accompanying structures. The cold storage building, in which items such as hydrants, traffic cones and barricades will be stored, is about 7,500 square feet. The structure under which salt and a salt/sand mix will be stored is about 12,000 square feet.

Salt currently is stored near the wastewater treatment facility outside in a large pile, exposed to the elements of nature, Mack said.

"One of the big motivations was to get the salt and sand under cover," Mack said, adding that the material used to cover the storage area comes with a 15-year guarantee.

The city has contemplated a new public works facility for about 20 years, Mack said. The Bemidji City Council authorized a new facility in spring 2006, and construction began this past spring. Kraus-Anderson received the bid.

The city of Bemidji already owned the land, which meant the city did not have to purchase any property, displace homeowners or take a building off of the tax roll, Mack said.

"There are a lot of pluses about this," he said.

The departments planned to occupy the new public works building currently are located throughout the city.

Department heads, like Mack, are headquartered at Bemidji City Hall. Parks and streets employees work out of a building near the wastewater treatment plant. Vehicles are stored at the former Minnesota Department of Transportation building.

The new facility will headquarter all of the workers, buildings and operations at one central location. Mack said that five or six buildings will be demolished or sold once employees take over the new public works building.

The main public works building has two levels for offices. The top floor contains offices and storage space for the public works and parks personnel, and the engineering department is located on the first floor, with a nearby meeting room. In addition to a staircase, an elevator also will be installed, which will help not only transport people but file cabinets as well.

The rest of the building primarily features large garage and shop areas that take up both levels.

Near the first-floor offices is the shop in which vehicle repairs and maintenance will be done.

The main garage, located in the center of the facility to the west of the offices, was constructed to handle future capacity. Eighty percent of the building is expected to be filled with existing vehicles, which means 20 percent more could be included in the future, Mack said.

The garage also features several storage areas. Above the space in which a truck may be parked is a slab of concrete upon which palates or items could be stored by forklift.

Another feature is the truck wash. A truck will be able to drive directly into the wash bay and be cleaned. Upon leaving the washing area, the truck would not have to go back outside. Instead, the cleaned vehicle would drive through the wash area and immediately be inside the main garage.

Several shops are located just off the garage. One is reserved for the parks department, and others are dedicated to the construction and storage of signs, and paint. Additionally, there is a heated area in which work can be done in a warm environment. Some work, such as that done on water heaters, must be done in a heated area, Mack said.

Outside of the building, looking west, is a private home. Mack said the property line for the public works facility is 6 feet from the house, and the homeowners were aware of that. The city plans to install a chain-link fence about 15 feet from the homeowners' property line.

"We're trying to be as good as neighbors as possible," he said.

An open house will be planned next spring and will offer the public an opportunity to tour the new public works facility, Mack said.