Supervisors move on roads facility


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Over the course of the past four months, several unknowns stood regarding the fate of the Secondary Roads Facility, 4810 Melrose Ave, after a March 25 fire left several of its resources crippled.

While agreement could not be reached during a Thursday morning meeting, the five-member Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to replace all portions of the more than 40-year old facility.

The action will result in the sending of the final designs for the projected roughly $3 million, 38,125-square-foot building to a still undetermined construction company.

In July, the board approved a $203,000 contract with the Cedar Rapids-based Ament Design engineering and architectural firm for the design and site plan.

Supervisor Chairwoman Janelle Rettig and Supervisor John Etheredge maintained that the ultimate full replacement option was too costly for the county.

“I don’t like the amount of money we’re going to be spending on this,” Etheredge said, but noted that the county would spend more money in the future if a complete plan hadn’t moved forward Thursday. “This is a battle I lost.”

Although concerned with the fiduciary burden, Rettig said greater concern comes from the pending construction timeline.

“I’m concerned that if we don’t get moving on this now, we will be out of this building for another winter,” she said. “I don’t want to be divided on the fact that we need to move forward quickly. “We’ve spent enough time on this, we’ve hashed this out.”

The new facility will allow the county to bring all fleet operations under one centralized roof.

Recent project outlines call for two parts: a 28,000-square-foot prefabricated metal building constructed on top of a concrete foundation with service stalls, overhead doors, metal roofing and walls, and a 10,125-square-foot building used for office and lab space built with conventional masonry or, possibly, insulated steeled walls.

In all, the Secondary Roads department manages more than 900 miles of gravel, dirt, and paved roads. It is responsible for plowing snow, laying gravel, mowing road shoulders, and grading, as well as the upkeep of culverts and bridges.

In nearly stark contrast to Etheredge and Rettig, Supervisor Terrence Neuzil and Supervisor Pat Harney focused beyond the dollars and cents.

“As I look at this project, as I look at any project that Johnson County does, I am of the opinion that we do things right,” Neuzil said. “What comes from a tragic situation is leading to an opportunity. I’m happy with the decision.”

Neuzil echoed Rettig’s thoughts in regards to the new facility’s effect on other future county projects, especially in regards to recent purchases relating to the new facility.

In July, the county spent $500,000 for new truck purchases needed to replace fire-damaged fleet vehicles.

To Rettig, a new Secondary Roads Facility means some road projects may see delays, possibly for up to another year.

But, she said, construction on a cold-storage facility as a part of the total complex could get underway this fall.

“There are some things that will have to be held off to help pay for this,” Neuzil said.

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