County highway renovations expected to cost $1.8M

The days of carrying truck parts down a spiral staircase and hosting continuing education classes in a greasy truck bay might be coming to an end for employees of the Kosciusko County Highway Department.

On Tuesday, county leaders took an initial step toward replacing the highway department’s office and expanding another building, moves that are together expected to cost about $1.8 million, said County Administrator Ron Robinson.

County commissioners on Tuesday heard a brief update on the plans for the highway garage, located on Old 30 on the east side of Warsaw.

The proposal includes a specific area set aside for classes, which are often required by the state. There also will be a sleeping area and shower for workers who are in the midst of lengthy emergency snow removal shifts, Robinson said.

Currently, when workers can’t make it home between shifts during heavy snow, they use a few cots available in a building behind the office building.

Another improvement would be a patch bay reserved for asphalt repair materials that can be heated and ready for use.

Heating up road material currently happens outside, but when temps drop significantly, it’s become more difficult to warm up the material, Robinson said.

A parts bay and a wash bay are also part of the design. Robinson said officials hope  demolition and construction will happen next year. Highway personnel will operate out of temporary trailers after the existing building is demolished, Robinson said.

The county will use money from the Economic Development Income Tax fund. In recent years, officials had been using some money from EDIT to help cover road maintenance costs. However, with the establishment of a wheel tax to use on roads, the county has more money in the EDIT fund for other uses.

Robinson pointed out on Tuesday at the county commissioners meeting that revenues from the wheel tax, which can only be used for road maintenance, will not be used for the proposed improvements.

The commissioners agreed on Tuesday to move ahead with the project.

Another demolition-related project also was discussed Tuesday during the commissioners’ meeting.

In addition to the highway offices, the county also intends to remove the front portion of the old Munson auto sales building north of the courthouse in downtown Warsaw, which the county owns and uses for meetings and  a maintenance shop.

The furnace, air conditioning and floors in the front portion of the building are all in need of repairs and the large display windows in the front of the building that faces Lake Street are drafty and not energy efficient, Robinson said.

The front of the building is used for occasional meetings.

A storage building will be constructed in place of the office area and will house road salt and some equipment.

The changes are expected to create a few more parking spaces  for county employees. The cost to make repairs  would have exceeded the cost to demolish, Robinson said.

On Tuesday, the commissioners approved a bid by G&G Hauling to demolish the front of the building for about $11,000.