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Sauk County plans new highway building
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Sauk County plans new highway building

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Officials are in the first stages of building a new Sauk County Highway Department shop to replace the original built in 1949.

The need for a newer, more efficient building has grown as trucks have grown larger, said Sauk County Board Chairperson Tim McCumber.

“Mr. Bill” Machtel performs his clown acts at Baraboo's Circus World in clips from 1997 and 1995. Contributed by Circus World Museum.

“Old is probably an understatement,” McCumber said. “They’re really out of space there. They just don’t have the space to do all the things they need to do.”

McCumber said in the last term of the board, an ad hoc committee was created to figure out where and how to create a new space for the department. During a Sept. 15 board meeting, he appointed members to the Ad Hoc Highway Committee, including Supervisor Brian Peper, who serves as the chairperson of the Highway Committee, and Supervisors Tommy Lee Bychinski, Smooth Detter, Carl Gruber, Kevin Schell and Mike Flint. McCumber is also serving as an at large member of the committee.

The membership represents the Highway Committee, Property Committee and Finance Committee.

McCumber said the group was “given a lot of authority” when formed. It was verified as legitimate by review of corporation counsel, he said during a board meeting April 20.

Organizers recently decided to hire Bill Devine, a general contractor from the Portage area, to take the next steps of the process. McCumber said Devine will be in charge of issuing requests for proposals from contractors and that he has an “optimistic” ground breaking goal date of Oct. 1. McCumber said it could likely be by the end of the year, but added that could also be an optimistic outlook.

McCumber said members of the ad hoc group toured other facilities in the state and referred to them as “almost state-of-the-art” compared to the Sauk County building.

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There is no official timeline for how long the project will take yet and McCumber said the cost is still unknown. More estimates will have to be gathered from contractors through the bid process before they have a solid number.

A previous feasibility study looking to relocate the shop and service station was “not realistic,” McCumber said. The shop will stay on its current property at 620 State Highway 36 in Baraboo, he said.

McCumber and County Administrator Brent Miller said during the most recent board meeting that a new building will help reduce, and possibly eliminate, a loss of money for the county.

“We’re on what we think is an aggressive schedule because we’re losing a lot of man hours, if you haven’t heard us talk about this in the past, with the current highway shop,” McCumber said. “And honestly, the fact that no one’s been injured kind of amazes me.”

Miller said it costs the county roughly $55,000 in salaries in a single snow season because of the limitations in space for plow drivers.

When inclement weather is incoming, trucks are kept in a line in the shop due to increased size of trucks compared to the past. The plows are stored about 40 feet from one of the doors to the shop. In bad weather, drivers have to first wait for the drivers of the trucks in front of them to arrive before they can leave and then have to hook up the plow to their truck during the snowstorm.

According to information provided by Highway Commissioner Pat Gavinski, the department holds 72 heavy trucks to serve Baraboo, Reedsburg, Spring Green and Prairie du Sac. There are also 29 light trucks total. A number of trucks are kept under covered parking near the shop. During good weather, the building is used for repairs and cleaning.

Gavinski said the department was excited at the possibility of having an upgraded facility.

“It will be good to have adequate space,” Gavinski said.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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