Moving DPW would make sense for city

THE PLYMOUTH CITY COUNCIL is taking its first look at a proposal that makes a lot of sense.

The council’s Public Works and Utilities Committee last month received a report from architect Mark Pfaller on adding on to the Plymouth Utilities Operations Center to create space to house the city’s Public Works Department and its equipment.

City Administrator Brian Yerges conceded that any such project is still a way down the road, but said it makes sense for the city in the long run – and he was right.

The utilities moved into their new building in 2012 and it has proven to be a move well worth it – for the utilities and for their customers, rate payers and city taxpayers.

It was a matter of consolidating operations and storage in one central location that proved most beneficial for Plymouth Utilities.

Before the new building, utilities equipment and material were stored in several different locations throughout the city, often forcing crews to go from one place to another – and even another – to gather all they needed before heading to a job site.

It also created difficulties and delays in communicating, gathering information and making decisions – all of which cost time and money.

For a number of reasons, upgrading, expanding and remodeling the utilities’ existing space was not a reasonable or cost-worthy alternative, and the new operations center was approved and built.

The subsequent streamlined and efficient operations have enabled Plymouth Utilities to control and reduce costs, as has been recognized time and again in required independent audits of the utilities.

For the Public Works Department, the need is for expanded and upgraded space and facilities.

The current Public Works garage on Valley Road has served the city well for many years, but with the city’s growth since it was first opened it has grown too small to serve the department.

Director of Public Works Cathy Austin explained to the committee that many times, because space inside the garage is so tight, 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.

Additionally, there is no dedicated space for DPW employees to perform routine maintenance and repair on vehicles and equipment, forcing them to make do with what space is available – often not efficiently or safely.

Ideally, the city would have created a combined utilities/public works center when it first considered replacing the Plymouth Utilities headquarters building nearly a decade ago. But at the time, that project alone seemed large and costly enough on its own to be considered as a solitary effort.

Now, the city has rightly begun down the path of consolidating the two departments on the same campus. Not only is the space available for such an expansion at the utilities center, but it could also lead to further efficiencies and cost sharing – and saving – between the two departments in the same building.

The move could cost in the neighborhood of $6 million or more, so it obviously has to be considered a project for a future date.

But it would be wise not to keep that date too far in the future. As Mayor Donald Pohlman told the committee, “I think we should keep pressing it. It makes sense to keep this on page one.”

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