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Lake County hires construction manager for highway garage

The Lake County Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to hire Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. as its construction manager for its highway garage project.

The board also voted Tuesday, Jan. 9, to hire CBS Squared Inc. (CBS2) as the architect for the project. The county has been working with CBS2 since March on potential designs. The company presented the options for a new facility to the board in October.

Kraus-Anderson worked with CBS2 on the company's other highway facility projects around Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Chippewa Falls, Wis.-based architectural firm has completed similar projects in Sheboygan and Hudson, Wis., and Jackson, Minn.

The preliminary plans for the estimated $7 million facility call for a public meeting room, efficiency improvements, an interior truck wash to maximize fleet life cycle and reduce pollution and separate locker rooms for men and women.

The old building on Highway 2 in Two Harbors was severely damaged in December 2016 by a fire originating in a snow plow truck that was sidelined for repairs.

Repairs to the existing facility are estimated to exceed $1 million. The facility is projected to last only 10 more years.

What's more, the Lake County Highway Department has outgrown the Two Harbors building, which is more than 50 years old, and it presents a number of challenges for the department. Operators are forced to dismantle plows outside because the trucks won't fit inside the building with the plows attached.

The new building — estimated at 41,500 square feet, compared to the current 24,000-square-foot facility — will be constructed using precast concrete. The precast concrete forms have a lifespan of up to 80 years and can be reused if the county eventually needs to expand the facility. In any expansion, one of the precast forms could be moved and the longer walls of the rectangular facility extended. The older form could be reset in a new location.

Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT), Lake County's insurer, made an initial offer of $1.12 million to repair the facility, but following a 3D scan of the building that revealed a number of other structural weaknesses, the claim was adjusted to $1.35 million.

County Administrator Matt Huddleston said the county is still negotiating with MCIT, so the offer could increase slightly in the next couple of weeks.

Board members have said that with the age of the older facility and the extent of the damage, it is more prudent to invest any amount they receive into a new facility than to repair a facility the highway department has already outgrown. The rest of the money for the new building would be paid through Minnesota Department of Transportation State Aid funding and bond money.

"It's always been our plan to replace it ... because of this misfortune, it does give us the opportunity to reconstruct at this time," Commissioner Rich Sve said after the meeting Tuesday. "It's a need that serves the citizens of Lake County and we have the opportunity to use this insurance money to build something better. It really comes down to an issue of cost benefit."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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