Lake County will relocate its Two Harbors Highway Department operations to an improved $9.1 million facility next week. The building was financed with a combination of bond funds, insurance receipts and state-aid funds.

The new facility, at 1513 U.S. Highway 2, sits across from the Lake County Fairgrounds, the same site as the former highway garage that was significantly damaged by a December 2016 fire.

After more than a year of negotiations between the county and its insurer, Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust, there was a settlement for more than $1.7 million in damage to the building. The county chose to invest the settlement in building a new facility instead of repairing a structure that was nearly 60 years old and no longer met the needs of the department.

The county demolished the former facility last spring, and shortly after began preparing the site for the 54,000-square-foot, two-story concrete building designed by CBS Squared.

The new building stores eight plows, two graders, two loaders and various other road maintenance equipment. Additionally, equipment from the Highway Department's Finland and Fall Lake Township locations will be transported to the Two Harbors building for servicing.

Eighteen employees are based out of the engineering, road maintenance and shop offices.

The facility provides adequate storage space for equipment; a safe work site featuring a bridge crane and vehicle lifts; a wash bay; separate locker rooms for male and female employees; and a new meeting room.

The meeting space can be used by community organizations, and Lake County is considering a polling place change for Unorganized Territory No. 2 Precinct 3. Residents who currently vote at the Two Harbors High School may vote at Lake County's new conference room in 2020. This polling place change will be reviewed at the County Board's April 23 meeting.

"The Highway Department looks forward to better serving residents and visitors from this location, and Lake County is proud to provide a modern workspace for current and future Highway Department employees," highway engineer Krysten Foster said.

Highway Department office services will be unavailable from Monday, April 22, through Friday, April 26, as staff transitions from the service center to the new facility. The Highway Department plans to resume services at the new facility Monday, April 29.

Residents needing to request a mailbox or complete an entrance permit, and parties needing a permit to work within county-managed right of way are advised to call 834-8380 or stop by the new Highway Department after April 29.

An open house for the new building is being planned for early this summer.