Old shop building

The soapstone header on the Barron County Highway Department shop, built in 1947, will be preserved and displayed on site as a new shop is built. The building is on the Registry of Historic Places, requiring the county to take steps to save its history before it is razed. Ryan Urban photo

Barron County’s massive highway department project is now behind schedule due to some roadblocks put up by the historical designation of its old buildings, county officials say.

The existing main building and four others on the highway department site, past and present, are designated on the Register of Historic Places.

This distinction does not prohibit them from being demolished, but the County must save their history in some way.

In order to do this, the soapstone “Barron County” headers from both the main shop and one previously torn down will be used for a monument display. Prints of photos and blueprints of the old shop, built in 1947, and some department artifacts will also be put on display inside the new 160,000-sqaure foot building to be erected just east of the current building.

Highway Commissioner Mark Servi said this plan has been cleared by the state and now they are awaiting a grading permit to begin work on the east side of Hwy. 25.

“We’re clear at the DNR for the final review,” he said.

Servi said he is hoping this work will begin before the end of the July. That is more than a month behind the initial construction timeline.

Servi said the County would be working with the contractors to enclose the new facility by winter, so that work could continue to progress as quickly as possible. But if it is not enclosed by winter, the project could be set back 3-4 months, he said.

The project is expected to wrap up next summer.

Servi said the County was not aware of the Historical Registry designation and does not know exactly how the buildings got on the registry in the first place.

“We need to get into how that came about,” said Servi, but with the caveat that it wouldn’t be an immediate priority.

Another challenge for the project is the recent discovery of asbestos in the old shop.

Servi said that the shop has two roofs, one on top of the other, and in the lower one asbestos was found. He said the county is in contact with asbestos mitigation contractors, and bids for the removal will be put out at the end of July.

Being in between buildings this winter will be a challenge, whether construction is delayed or not. The department has considerable equipment storage needs.

“We’ve got trucks farmed out all over the county to keep us operating this winter,” said Servi.

Road project update

Servi reported on the following 2021 road projects at the Highway Committee’s July 15 meeting:

• Work on the Waste-to-Energy facility wall is nearing completion;

• The first stage of the work on Hwy. F and Hwy. A in and near Prairie Farm is complete and the remaining work will be done later in the season;

• Hwy. I will be started after Labor Day;

• Hwy. U from Dallas to Hwy. 25 has been completed;

• The Vance Creek 5th Street bridge design is on track;

• Hwy. A from Dallas to Hwy. I is on track;

•The bridge on Hwy. SS over the Chetek River can begin with consultant selection;

• Twenty-three of the 25 Barron County towns have contracted with the county department for work this summer;

• Mowing, chip sealing, crack filling projects are continuing;

• Engineering consult CBS Squared is continuing to work on the safety funding application for the Decker Drive and Hwy. O intersection project. It is proposed that the busy Rice Lake intersection be closed off, to be right-turn only from Decker Drive, or controlled with traffic signals or a roundabout.

This decision will be greatly influenced by a major development proposal to the north. Chippewa Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine is proposing a 50,000-square foot building on 10.7 acres. The development would require extension of utilities and new roadway—Cedar Crest Drive and Vavia Drive—connecting Wisconsin Avenue to Decker Drive and Hwy. O to the south.

At Thursday’s meeting Servi said there is a drainage issue on the land in question that developers are trying to work out.

He said that they will have to wait and see what happens with the development before deciding on changes to the intersection.