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Highway department investigates expansion
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DARLINGTON—The Lafayette County Highway Department is investigating options to expand equipment storage.
Lafayette County Highway Commissioner Tom Jean said he and the county’s highway committee have been investigating two options for expanding the storage space for equipment of the county’s highway department: purchasing approximately 5 acres with two commercial sheds already constructed or building a new shed somewhere else.
“It is in the preliminary stage,” Jean said. “We’re just looking into the possibilities. We’ve got a definite need for extra space. Our trucks right now are to the point where we’ve got 30 different vehicles in our main shed, so when we call people in we may have to move around a lot of trucks.”
Gerald Heimann, county board supervisor, said the shed can be so congested that it takes time to get the right equipment out of the shed and the clutter can cause damage to the facility or other equipment. He said it becomes more difficult as the trucks get bigger.
“It would be nice to be able to park them diagonally and leave that center lane open for safety and convenience,” Jean said. “Right now that building is stuffed right full.”
Jean said the wash bay to clean the equipment is currently used for storage space, too.
“We’re getting by,” Jean said. “A lot of our equipment has to sit outside all winter long because we don’t have storage space to put it in. It’s hard on equipment.”
Jean said he’s been researching the best options for the county, whether it be investing in a couple of buildings for sale near the current highway department facility or constructing a new building. He said with the hidden costs of a building project it would probably turn out to be a similar cost to the turnkey option of buying already-constructed buildings.
The department plans to take out a loan for the expansion project, whether it be building new or purchasing buildings and property.
“This is an opportunity with interest rates as low as they are right now,” Jean said. “It’s an opportunity that we’re going to look into and see if it’s feasible or not.”
The two buildings the department is exploring are a 216 by 72 foot commercial machine shed and a 108 by 80 foot commercial machine shop on approximately 5 acres near the current county highway sheds. Jean said he is still exploring the cost of that property.
“It would fulfill all of our needs for a long, long time,” Jean said.
He said there is a pressure wash system in the building, but most of the repairs would be done at the current shop. The county would continue to store some equipment in the current facilities.
“This would be able to give us that much more room for heated areas,” Jean said. “The middle of the winter is our worst time because we can’t fit everything in here. During the summertime I don’t have a lot of space problems because all of our equipment is out on projects.”
“Any time you go to spend money in the county you’re going to get scrutinized for it,” Jean said. “It’ll be a tough sell. If it doesn’t go, it doesn’t go. We’ll make do with what we have. It’s got to be a committee decision and it’s got to be a county board decision.”
Jean said his department is still operating on a budget that was set in 2007. The state keeps cutting transportation aid making it more difficult to keep up.
“Sooner or later you have to upgrade,” Jean said.
Jean said he has been giving the county board supervisors tours of the current facility to show them what the needs of his department are.
No action has been taken.