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Study reviewing facility needs in Milton

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 18, 2010
— The city of Milton has grown in recent years.

Its public works building hasn’t.


That’s causing headaches for crews trying to fit a growing number of large vehicles and equipment in the 35-year-old facility on Madison Avenue, across from the city’s Merchants Row district.


“We know we need something bigger,” Public Works Director Howard Robinson said. “We need more size. That’s the big issue.”


A city study is underway to decide whether a building addition and upgrades at the current public works building could fix the space crunch and other problems or if a new facility at one of several proposed, city-owned sites would be more cost effective.


Portage-based General Engineering Co. will handle the $18,750 study, which the city council approved this month. The firm will present the study’s results to the city’s public works committee July 6.


Robinson said he’s eager to give consultants input on the department’s facility needs.


“We’re trying to find out the most effective way to manage growth over the next 30 years,” he said. “But we also want to give direction on things we know haven’t worked in the past.”


A major issue at the public works building is a lack of vehicle storage space. Workers must find a way to wedge a growing fleet of 25 large vehicles into the garage’s 9,800 square foot storage area.


Robinson said it’s a challenge to organize the department’s fleet so workers can reach vehicles they need for daily assignments.


“On weekends, when there’s emergency work, sometimes one person will have to move eight or nine trucks just to get to the vehicle they need,” he said.


Robinson said the department plans to gradually replace its fleet of plow trucks with larger wing plow trucks to improve highway snow removal.


“Those wing plows will need an extra 10 feet per stall. That’ll just eat up even more space,” he said.


Heat at the public works building is another issue. In the winter, Robinson said, temperatures in the building’s storage area hover near freezing. For temperature-sensitive equipment and supplies such as street paint, workers built a small, heated room within the storage area.


“That room makes up for storage we don’t have. We’ve been dealing with that for over 10 years,” Robinson said.


Some city vehicles need warm storage. In August, the city will be getting a new sewer vacuum truck. City Administrator Todd Schmidt said the $200,000 vehicle has equipment that can get damaged in cold weather.


“With an investment like that, leaving it out in the snow or the cold might not be a good idea,” he said.


Schmidt said the city plans to rent climate-controlled storage space for the truck.


Other rooms in the public works garage are undersized and under-equipped for the department’s needs, Robinson said.


He said the 1,700-square-foot mechanics bay doesn’t have a vehicle hoist and is short on storage space. Mechanics keep tools and inventory in a small closet, and the department’s break room doubles as overflow storage for street signs and supplies.


One of the department’s administrative offices is located in a converted storage closet.


General Engineering consultant Jason Jackson said the public works study should yield hard answers on whether an addition and upgrades are a viable option.


“An addition might last 75 years, but if the old building has been there 35 years, what will it look like in several years? How will it hold up?” he said.


The city has tabbed seven sites for possible construction of a new public works facility. Jackson said consultants plan to review each.


“We’ll want to know whether each site’s large enough and whether there’s room for future expansion,” he said.


Another factor in site selection, Jackson said, would be review of bordering property. For instance, one possible location for a new city garage is on the south end of King Park, along Hilltop Drive.


“We’d want to look at how a new facility would impact neighboring properties,” Jackson said.



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