Murray County commissioners consider $12 million expansion

Photo by Jody Isaackson cbs2 architect Bob Sworski showed sketches of prospective plans to the Murray County Board at its meeting Tuesday. Sworski explained to them the savings on equipment repairs if they had a facility large enough to hold all their vehicles and parts.

SLAYTON — It isn’t often you hear a contractor say two things: “This is how much it will really cost,” and “Stop paying me now while you think about it.”

That is exactly what Bob Sworski of cbs2 said Tuesday when he made a presentation of several options for the county to consider for expanding its highway department shop and storage area.

Sworski showed examples of his architectural interpretations while Murray County Engineer Randy Groves provided financing suggestions.

The first example Sworski showed was a reconfigured sketch of what the county could do with its current shop to more efficiently utilize the property they are currently on.

“If you are looking at pouring more money into your old building, you’re probably going to create a white elephant that no one else will want in the future,” Sworski said. “There’s a reason why John Deere left the building you’re in now. It could be it was getting too small for them. It could be the design was outdated.”

Sworski speculated that maybe the heating costs were too much.

His following examples were based on using precast concrete walls that were economical in many ways. Heating costs were just one of them. Another was that they can come pre-scored to pop out when expansion was called for, and that the popped-out sections could be reused for various other projects, including forestry.

The second rendition showed what Jackson County had done to nearly double its facility when the city maintenance department moved in. Sworski’s firm saved Jackson County $500,000 to $1 million, he said.

The third sketch was of Lake County in Two Harbors, showing another layout.

Sworksi’s proposal for Murray County included 2- 1/2 work bays, a welding bay, anchored hoists, a wash bay that wouldn’t have a motorgrater in it that needed moving, a vehicle storage area, cold patch section, sign storage, oil storage and more.

The architect said the best plan would run the county around $12 million, which included taxes, fees and permits.

“I could tell you the construction would cost around $9 million,” he said. “Everyone likes to hear the smaller numbers. But I wanted you to know up front what you’re looking at.”

Groves came in with an example of highway department project funding.

The highway department, land purchase, buildings, and so forth estimated $12 million.

Groves said the pay-down for the new project cost with sale of existing highway department property and use extra state aid from 2020 would reduce the amount by $2 million. That leaves $10 million for the county to cover.

He said getting local agency bonds of $10 million for 20 years at 3 percent interest, with the annual payments split with state aid covering 83 percent, the county would be responsible for 17 percent. The annual 83 percent state aid payment would be $557,890. The county’s 17 percent comes to $114,267 annually.

“The benefits to this plan is that we’re putting up this huge new building and paying only 17 percent of it,” Groves said.

The drawback was that if a few years down the line, the property gets sold, the county still has to pay back the state’s investment.

Other counties borrow ahead and pay it back with levy money, he said.

“How can there be a guarantee that the money will always be there?” Commissioner Dave Thiner asked.

“It’s funded by gas tax,” Groves said. “Unless people quit driving, it’ll always be there.”

“There was always the ‘do nothing’ option,” Groves said. “We played that card a few years ago. We could go that route again, but it’s going to cost us.”

Sworski backed him up, saying that some of the county’s equipment wouldn’t start after staying outside all winter, requiring expensive repairs.

“We’ve gone ahead and done a cost analysis in this area,” Sworski said. “Chippewa County actually got $5,000 to $10,000 more in trade-in value after they started storing their vehicles inside.”

During a question-and- answer period, it was noted that the current highway department property is close to 5 acres. The proposed site should be closer to 20 acres.

“If you have enough area, you can lay things out right, including holding ponds,” Groves said. “You can include a fueling center, two to three outbuildings for storage, et cetera.”

Another reason presented itself for stopping Sworski from incurring any more hours on the project was for the county to determine if they were going to include the parks department in its plans for expansion.