Houston County Commissioners toured the former Roverud Construction building in Spring Grove on June 6, gathering information on possible solutions to their Highway Department's facility needs.

The visit was part of a special meeting called to address the subject, but it's not the first time the county board has taken up the matter.

Described by some residents as dilapidated, the current highway headquarters is a facility with a long list of problems, commissioners were once again told.

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said that several years ago contactors Fowler & Hammer and Wieser Brothers were asked to look at the existing building's problems.

That was before a different set of commissioners decided to purchase 22 acres on the west side of Caledonia as the site of a new public works facility.

"Fowler & Hammer found so many issues; they weren't willing to put a cost estimate on what it would take to correct them," Pogodzinski said.

"They didn't feel it was practical to do anything there. The contractors just thought it was not economical to do anything to that building."

Architectural firm HSR Associates was eventually hired to draw up plans for the new facility. In 2009, they delivered a preliminary design with a cost estimate of $6,976,588.

The board has discussed three options: building on the 22 acres near Caledonia High School, building at the current site or purchasing an existing facility that can be re-tasked.

Pogodzinski reported that the current highway headquarters complex in Caledonia occupies approximately six acres with buildings and parking lots taking up about half of that area.

County land to the east is leased to the Houston County Fairgrounds. If a new shop and office building is added to the footprint, additional retention ponds will be needed.

Building at the 22-acre site would require $760,000 for site work, he said. That's before anything could actually be constructed.

Pogodzinski said that a scaled-back shop/office plan for that area would cost approximately $4 million with "close to $6 million" being spent there when supplementary structures (such as additional storage buildings) are added.

Approximately 15 acres of the site would be slated for development.

Pogodzinski said the department needs about 9,000 sq. ft. of shop and office space. He brought comparative information on highway facilities that have been constructed throughout the area in recent years.

Commissioners expressed a desire to view a $4.7 million facility built by the city of Onalaska and another built by Crawford County, Wis., that originally cost $2.8 million. The latter has had three buildings added since, Pogodzinski added.

By using the Highway Department Fund Balance and $600,000 already saved for a new shop, Houston County could raise approximately $2 million without borrowing, Pogodzinski reported.

The only drawback would be that some road projects would be delayed.

When asked about all the studies that the county has made into the issue over the years, Pogodzinski admitted some frustration with the drawn-out nature of the process.

"It's good to get up to speed, (and) you want to turn over every stone so you don't miss anything, but... do you want to do it again and again? We could spend another year or two on this. You start getting into a cycle where you're just spinning your wheels."

Commissioners decided to tour the two Wisconsin facilities on June 27. They called Curt Roverud to see if they could walk through the existing building in Spring Grove while still in session.

After that tour, the board decided to ask the Minnesota Intergovernmental Trust to inspect the Roverud Construction building to see if there would be any insurance concerns with re-tasking the facility for county use.

No offer was made to purchase, but the building remains as one of the options under consideration.