Eau Claire County is moving forward with plans for a new 110,000-square foot Highway Department facility on the south side of Eau Claire at an estimated cost of $21 million.
The Administration Committee this week approved the creation of a five-person special committee for the highway building project. The special committee will include two elected officers, one member of the Finance and Budget Committee and two members of the Highway Committee.
Eau Claire County Highway Commissioner Jon Johnson said forming a special committee is a common practice for large-scale projects. Johnson aims for the new building — which would be located near U.S. 53 and Highway I — to be completed by fall 2021 and last 50 years. The project would be funded by county bonds.
At the Administration Committee meeting on Tuesday, supervisor Gerald Wilkie said he believes the special committee can help ensure the project stays on budget.
“I like this process,” Wilkie said.
Members of the special committee will be responsible for managing project costs and providing design oversight. The committee will have final oversight responsibility for the eight-figure project that includes new facilities for shop, offices, garage, storage and grounds. Johnson said the Highway Department currently only has half the amount of storage it needs for vehicles, and the new facility would provide proper space.
The committee members will likely not be appointed by the County Board until funding for the design phase of the facility is secured and approved as part of next year’s budget. That phase will total about $550,000. If funding is not approved, the project will be indefinitely delayed.
Johnson said many County Board members have asked about the costs associated with the new facility. He said the design aims to be simple, easy to maintain and as efficient as possible while still lasting a half century.
In the near term, Johnson will meet next week with finalists for the architect engineer and construction management aspects of the project. He will also provide more information for board members over the next couple months regarding long-term operation costs and the rescheduling of debt payments.
Over the next few weeks, Johnson will also gather cost estimates for potential upgrades to the Highway Department operations on Spooner Avenue that include roof replacements and HVAC, electrical and structural updates.
“The next couple weeks are going to be very critical for the overall direction of that project,” Johnson said.
The building on Spooner Avenue in Altoona that stores many of the Highway Department’s vehicles was constructed in the late 1970s. Two other buildings in the county house equipment, and both of those buildings are more than 100 years old. The new facility will ideally bring all the vehicles and equipment under one roof and provide additional, climate-controlled storage.