Proposed garage

 A site on the north side of the city of Barron (outlined in yellow) has been selected as the tentative location for a proposed new garage for the county Highway Department. Photo from News-Shield archives

A Chippewa Falls consulting firm will make a presentation at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at Barron, regarding space needs for a proposed new garage for the Barron County Highway Department.

The meeting will take place at the Highway Department office.

The new facility has been under discussion for about five years, and it is part of this year’s county budget. If approved by the Board of Supervisors, it would be built east of Wisconsin Hwy. 25, to the east and slightly north of the existing highway garage, which was built 73 years ago.

According to Highway Commissioner Mark Servi, the presentation by Chippewa Falls-based CBS Squared is an early step in the process.

“This phase is to determine the spatial needs of the department,” Servi said Monday, Jan. 13. Once authorities know how much space is needed, it “will then generate a preliminary budget,” he added. “This phase does not include any architectural renderings of what the buildings could look like.”

The County Board took an early look at how to finance the garage at its regular monthly meeting Monday morning, Jan. 13, at the County Government Center.

According to Jeff French, county administrator, supervisors listened to a presentation fro Ehlers and Associates, a financial consulting firm based in Waukesha, Wis.

The consultants projected the costs that the county will face, depending on the final cost estimate for the garage.

“The role of Ehlers and Associates was to project debt financing at (amounts including) $7 million, $10 million and $12.5 million,” French said. “There was a spirited discussion from the board regarding the (project),” he added.

The County Board began serious discussion on whether to include the garage in future budgets last year, after supervisors learned the county would complete paying off the debt incurred to build the estimated $11 million County Justice Center, which was completed in 2004.

Before 2010, a committee of county supervisors and staff members agreed to keep the Highway Department at Barron, and a program of facility replacement began. The first new structure was a $900,000 wooden salt shed, completed in 2013.

In 2016, the county built a $360,000 metal shed on property near the corner of Hwy. 25 and Taylor Avenue. It serves as a storage facility for Highway Department and other county vehicles.

In 2018, an old masonry garage was demolished to make way for a fuel depot, including underground tanks and fuel pumps covered by a canopy. The depot serves Highway Department trucks and other county-owned vehicles.