County engineer discusses new secondary roads building project

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The old "tile building" used by the Clayton County Secondary Roads department will be torn down and replaced later this year, as the department makes necessary upgrades to its facilities.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The list of projects that have become possible due to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is numerous, and they’re reshaping and improving a variety of sectors in Clayton County. One of them includes a project that will revamp and modernize the Secondary Roads building on High Street in Elkader, which will “benefit the residents of Clayton County,” according to county engineer Casey Stickfort.


The main portion of the project will be tearing down and replacing what’s known as the “tile building,” while also upgrading the building next to it. The project has been on the radar for a few years, but funding and budgetary prioritization kept it from moving out of the idea phase. With ARPA funds becoming available and being allocated toward the estimated $1 million project, a building that has “met its age,” as Stickfort put it, will finally be replaced.


Apart from its age—having been built in the 1930s—the problem with the building is the fact it’s not heated, is used mostly for storage, has an attic that can’t be utilized, has poor lighting and water leaks in during heavy rainstorms. It’s basically a run-down shell of what it used to be and no longer supports county needs.


Last May, Stickfort started working with Mike Tucker from Martin Gardner Architecture, as well as the mechanic staff, to figure out what a new building should include. That was an important aspect for Stickfort, since it’s the mechanics who will be working in the building.


The upgraded structure will be a 5,120-square-foot building that will provide roughly 1,000 more square feet of space over the previous structure, which will provide more room for the maintenance section. This room will allow for greater flexibility, especially related to repairing the fleet of trucks and equipment. 


The fleet saw a breakdown rate of 28 percent during the recent snowstorm and the added flexibility will give the mechanics more ability to make repairs quicker and prioritize more efficiently. This improves the current situation, where some repairs get sidelined or delayed due to limited space.


One benefit is potentially saving tax dollars, because it will allow the department to do more extensive repairs and rebuilds in-house, as opposed to hiring out. They will also be able to overhaul or refurbish some of the machines, extending their lifespan instead of simply purchasing a new one, oftentimes at half the cost.


“The new building will expand our repair service ability to our existing fleet,” Stickfort said.


Another addition will be an overhead 49-foot bridge style crane, which will allow for safely lifting components in the shop area. This newer crane will replace a smaller one that only covers about 30 percent of the bay, while the new crane will cover the entire building. 


Again, this will generate greater efficiency, as the new crane will eliminate the need to play musical trucks, moving equipment around to accommodate the smaller crane, especially for heavier lifts. The new crane will also have a heavier lift capacity.


Along with this project, the Secondary Roads building sitting next to it—the “yellowish” building as Stickfort called it—will also receive some much needed upgrades. It is showing its age, having been built in 1978. 


Once completed, the project will connect the two buildings. The upgrades will also include overhead doors, new windows, improved air handling system for better air quality, new lighting, electrical upgrades, repaired interior doors, new toilets in the restroom and a new coat of paint. 


Stickfort said the water issue will be addressed by building a concrete wall high enough to prevent water from getting into the buildings.


The plan for the new “mechanics hub” is about 70 percent set, according to Stickfort, while the timeline is in a tentative state. Bid letting is expected to take place in March, with bids being received in April, followed by a public hearing. Assuming the project receives the go-ahead from the board of supervisors, Stickfort expects demolition of the tile building and construction to begin by mid-May or early June, with a target goal of being completed by December of this year.


During construction, Stickfort stated the department will coordinate with the contractor to make sure maintenance is allowed to continue uninterrupted—or with as few delays as possible under the circumstances. 


This project piggybacks on the other changes and investments the department has made over the last eight to 10 years, especially with the department’s “out shops,” which have seen significant upgrades in safety, equipment availability and communications.


It’s also a precursor to future projects, including upgrading and stabilizing the fleet to bring that aforementioned breakdown percentage down and create a more reliable force of equipment. According to Stickfort, this is already underway, with two motor patrols being replaced in the next budget cycle. Other pieces of equipment are being looked at, reviewing the fleet for deficiencies.


“We want to provide the best service we can to the residents of Clayton County,” Stickfort said. “We want to make sure the citizens are taken care of.” 

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