The city of New London could have a new city garage as soon as 2016
That was one of the scenarios presented at the Capital Equipment and Projects Committee meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 30. The committee recommended to the city council to proceed with the city garage project.
The whole council was present at this meeting, and voted 7-1 to proceed with the city garage project. Tom O’Connell voted nay. Mary Tate and Rob Way were absent.
During the meeting, Jeff Bodoh, director of public works, gave a brief history of the planning for a new city garage. He said the current city garage was designed in 1945 and built one or two years later. An addition was added in 1959.
The earliest city garage replacement was brought up in 1992. It has been discussed on and off since then, Bodoh said.
Why a new city garage?
In detailing why a new city garage is needed, Bodoh said the city snowplows are one and a half feet wider than the garage door openings. Because of this, on average, it takes 4-5 minutes to back a snowplow out of the garage or drive it into the garage. Bodoh showed the council a video of what it is like to back a snowplow out of the garage.
“When you want the plows out quick and you have to deal with this, this isn’t a good thing,” Bodoh said.
He said frontend loaders are more difficult to drive in and back out.
Because of the beams in the building, the garage doors can’t be widened without substantial work being done to the roof system and the front of the building. There are also several places where the floor is uneven because of concrete settling. This creates tripping hazards.
Bodoh also pointed out that there are several fire hazards with the current city garage.
He said the vehicles and equipment are parked close together in the current garage, increasing the chances of losing the entire fleet in the event of a fire. The current garage also doesn’t have a sprinkler system or a fire alarm system.
The current garage also doesn’t have storage rooms for containers with flammable chemicals, such as paints, solvents, lubricants, and cleaning fluids, Bodoh said. These items are stored out in the open garage.
Alderperson Lori Dean questioned if this constituted code violations.
Bodoh confirmed that they were code violations.
“How are we getting away with them then?” Dean asked.
“We’ve been grandfathered, but our grandfather clause could expire at any time,” Bohoh said.
Bodoh said the current exhaust system is old and has been damaged. The electrical wiring has been added to or modified over the years, and there are several hot spots that the Building and Grounds crew is in the process of locating and fixing. There is also mold located in different areas of the building.
John Romberg, council president, asked if any employees complained about health problems.
“I haven’t heard of any,” Bodoh replied.
The current city garage is also expensive to heat.
Bodoh said average annual heating costs are around $10,700. He said during a recent cold winter it cost around $15,000 to heat the garage. He also said in 2008, the Waupaca County Highway Department told him that their average monthly heating bill for their New London garage was about $300 per month.
Kelly Claflin, of Keller Structures, spoke to the council about the cost of a new city garage. Keller Structures did the needs assessment and the preliminary plans of the budget for the project.
He said city officials told him the plans for a new city garage had to be “efficient, not extravagant.”
“Our preliminary plans won’t win any aesthetic design awards,” Claflin said. “It’s efficient and it will be operational for what they need and certainly improve the conditions that you have and are going through right now.”
In December 2012 Claflin provided the city of New London an estimated cost of $2.9-$3.3 million dollars if the garage was built in 2013. Claflin informed the board that it can expect building costs to go up around 5 percent each year.
“You never know what the thing will cost until you put it out there for bid,” Claflin said.
Earlier in the meeting Philip Cosson, financial advisor/executive vice president for CIPFA, addressed the board about the closing of the city’s TIF districts and how that will benefit the city when planning the financing of a new city garage.
“In 2015 if not much changes, you don’t spend much money, you don’t build a lot of roads, you’re going to see this close out in 2015,” Cosson said. “You can actually close this district out after May 1, 2014 already. That will still allow you to collect one more year of increment and that will be sufficient to pay off the obligation at that point.”
Cosson said according to his estimate, the city’s mill rate will drop from $9.27 to $7.88 once the last TIF district closes.
“That drop is the timing part of this,” Cosson said. “The drop is going to hit the levy in 2016. That’s the timing you actually want to have the borrowing in place so you’re levying for payments in 2016.”
In a scenario where the city borrowed $3.5 million to build a new city garage, Cosson said the mill rate would still drop to $8.41. This called for the debt to be paid off over 15 years.
“So even with the increase in debt payments you actually will have a drop in your mill rat as a result of the TIF closure,” Cosson said.
Cosson also talked about a scenario in which the city borrows $5 million, to be paid back over 15 years. In this scenario the mill rate still drops, this time to $8.67.
“This is a unique time when it’s (mill rate) going to drop significantly because of the TIF closure and this is what you want to time it with,” Cosson said. “You have some flexibility which is really great. You’re in the position to do some planning which is wonderful because a lot of places don’t have that luxury.”
Chad Hoerth, Parks and Recreation director, presented a sample scenario to give the council a general timeline for the process to keep the process moving.
He said $50,000 was already been set aside in the 2013 capital budget that can be used for civil design services. He said architectural design and engineering would be the next step in the project. This would require $91,500 to be in next year’s budget. The remaining $186,000 for architectural design and engineering would have to be in the 2015 budget.
This would allow for the bid process to start in July 2015 for earthwork. In order to get the concrete pad down before winter, that work would have to be done in October 2015. This part of the project would cost $440,000.
Bids for the construction of the new city garage would be sought in January 2016 with construction starting in March or April depending on the weather. The garage would then be completed by the end of 2016.
“Now is the time to do it,” Mayor Gary Henke said to the council. “And I think if you look at even borrowing $5 million, we’re still lowering the tax rate. That’s what kind of amazes me. We’ll look good and have a new building.”