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home : opinion : editorial
September 21, 2017

9/13/2017 8:23:00 AM
County highway shop

One of the toughest decisions facing Cottonwood County commissioners is what to do with the county highway shop.
A recent page 1 story informed readers that commissioners are thinking about potentially building a new highway shop because they are simply tired of pouring thousands of dollars into the current aging structure. The current headquarters was built around 1919 and has seen multiple additions over the years.
Commissioners will continue to study this issue carefully. Two options under consideration are:
• Building a new structure at the current county highway department headquarters located at the west edge of the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds in Windom.
• Build a new facility on county-owned property along County Road 13, near the landfill (seven miles northwest of Windom).
It should be pointed out that commissioners have not ruled out a third option: remodel the existing headquarters in Windom. The county is currently getting estimates as to what it would cost to repair the leaky roof, replace rotting windows, upgrade electrical wiring and several other changes.
Commissioners clearly favored a new facility as they discussed the matter at a recent long-range planning meeting. However, we do not know the cost of a local remodeling project. And, the county does not currently have the funds for a new facility.
Commissioners clearly hope to see a big influx of wind tower revenue in the coming years. If that happens, commissioners seem optimistic that the county would have the funds to move ahead on a county shop project - if that is what they desire.
It is also important to note that commissioners have no intention of starting a county shop project for at least a few more years. They want to thoroughly research the situation and have a better handle on future wind tower revenues before moving in that direction.
However, the board is wisely taking a careful look at recent projects in other counties, their costs, advantages and mistakes that were made along the way. They are also investigating key questions, such as:
• Do we need an entirely new county highway shop? Does it make sense, financially, to replace the oldest, troublesome sections of the existing facility.
• If we were to build a new county highway facility, should it be steel, or precast concrete?
• If the new building is constructed near the county landfill, what efficiencies would be saved by being in the center of the county, versus being seven miles from the county Courthouse, parts stores and other places in Windom and Mt. Lake?
• What other advantages are there to having a highway shop next door to the county landfill office? Could there be employment and equipment savings?
• If the highway shop is moved from Windom, what happens to the buildings and site of the current highway department headquarters? How about at Jeffers, where the board has discussed selling at least one building?
No matter what commissioners decide, this highway shop issue is critical. It will have long-term effects, both operationally and financially.
    - Rahn Larson

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