City weighs moving DPW to utilities campus

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Department of Public Works could someday share space with Plymouth Utilities.

The City Council’s Public Works and Utilities Committee received a study by architect Mark Pfaller on building a new DPW building attached to the current utilities building at the corner of South Street and County PP.

“There’s a lot of things the DPW is doing and doing well, but this makes them more efficient and cost-effective,” Pfaller said of the combined facility.

He presented a plan for an addition to the north of the utilities operations center that would serve primarily as garage, storage and mechanical space for the Public Works Department.

Pfaller estimated the cost of the roughly 38,500-square foot addition at around $6.5 million with contingencies.

“It would be a long-term project,” City Administrator Brian Yerges admitted. “The city would have to borrow for that. There’s no way the city would ever be able to pay for it with cash.”

Pfaller noted that the proposal would more than double the space available to the department over the current city garage on Valley Road, which is about 15,000 square feet.

The existing facility could be kept for yard waste and other public collections that it is currently used for, Pfaller said.

“There are some economies to be had,” by adding on to the utilities building for public works.

“It would create space for a mechanic’s bay,” Director of Public Works Cathy Austin said of the proposal. “Right now, we just have a little space set aside in our existing building,” for mechanical work on vehicles.

CVMIC (Cities and Villages Mutual Insurance Co.), the city’s insurance provider, has suggested that the city look at replacing or upgrading the DPW garage, Yerges noted. “It’s currently not set up for mechanic’s operations.”

The plan also includes separate wood and metal shops for the department, Austin added.

Yerges said there would be no additional office, locker room or meeting space as part of the proposed addition to the utilities building. Instead, the DPW would share those facilities in the existing building with Plymouth Utilities.

Pfaller noted other benefits as well.

“There would be combine storage so both the DPW and Plymouth Utilities can use some of the same things, the same equipment and stuff like that,” Pfaller pointed out.

Austin said the plan would provide space for additional truck and vehicle parking than is available in the current garage.

She noted that, often times, vehicles have to be moved around before the needed one can be taken out of the garage, whether it is snow plows or other trucks or equipment.

Pfaller said the addition would, “physically mirror the existing facility, so it looks like it’s always been there.”

Yerges noted that, ideally, the two departments would have combined when the new utilities operations center was built more than six years ago, but that didn’t happen.

“In hindsight, it would have been more cost-effective if we had done this back when the center was first built,” he commented.

Yerges also explained that the study of the new facility for the Public Works Department had originally been included in the city’s 2016 budget.

Pfaller was chosen to conduct the study then, Yerges said, but other priorities pushed that work back.

The first was Pfaller’s work on designing the new Huson Water Tower after the original structure was destroyed in an arson fire.

Pfaller then did the work for the city on converting the 133 E. Mill St. building into the Plymouth Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center.

Mayor Donald Pohlman urged that the DPW project keep moving forward.

“I think we should keep pressing it,” Pohlman told the committee members. “I know it’s a couple of years out at least, but I don’t think it should be five or 10 years.

“Do we need it? I think the answer is yes. I think it makes sense to keep this on page one,” Pohlman concluded.

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