During the next three to four months, staff from Cole County Public Works will be exploring the possibility of building a new facility on the north end of their current location on Monticello Road.
“We have outgrown our current building and would like to consider a new building or expanding our current building,” Public Works Director Eric Landwehr told the Cole County Commission at its meeting Tuesday. “We have 44 people working in the building and have no room for additional staff needed in the future. If we have to hold a public meeting, we must hold it at the Cole County Fire Protection District station across the street because our building is not ADA compliant.”
With the increase in staff over the years, Landwehr said they have turned four mechanic and equipment bays into offices and meeting space, and the current break room used to be an oil room.
About 10 years ago, Landwehr said, the county purchased land on the north end of the property where a gas station was located. Since then, they have filled in part of the lot. In 2019, Central Missouri Professional Services laid out a rough master plan of the property for a future public works building.
“We are currently looking at building a pole barn for truck and equipment parking under a roof,” Landwehr said. “Equipment continues to get bigger, but we don’t have the facilities to house them inside so they have to stay outside and that isn’t good.”
Landwehr said the location of the barn hinges on what a long-term plan for the property would call for.
“We’re also needing to construct a wash bay on the property since we now have to take our equipment to car washes with outside bays, which is very inefficient,” Landwehr said. “The location of the wash bay also impacts our future plans.”
Landwehr said they have looked at the pros and cons of building a new facility and expanding their current facility.
The pros for a new building include maximizing the use of the property and allowing the current building to be used for storage. The cons include being more expensive than expanding, and it would split staff between the new and old buildings.
For expanding the current facility, the positives would be a cheaper project and keeping the staff closer together, he said. The cons would be it wouldn’t address many inefficiencies a new building would take care of.
Landwehr said they also had talked with members of the county’s traffic and safety advisory board who said there could be some public perception issues as residents might be more understanding of using funds instead to pay for an expansion of new building, preferring to see the county continue to focus the use of tax dollars on roads instead.
“It’s just a question of money,” Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said. “We’ve got issues at the courthouse, the sheriff’s department/jail and Pringer Juvenile Center all looking at improvements. We’ve got to win the lottery.”
Landwehr told Bushman: “I understand that and that’s why we’d want to do this in a phased approach and not all at once.
“This facility hasn’t been improved, except for things we’ve done on our own, since it was built,” he said. “Other county buildings have seen improvements over the years. We’re pretty frugal in how we operate. We just need something that functions good.”