The Highway Department building in Hammond had served St. Croix County well for years, heck, even decades.
Yet, within the last few years, a battle was forming with the needs of the department against a building that was first built in the 1920s.
“It had ADA compliance issues, it didn’t have a female locker room,” explained Highway Commissioner Robbie Krejci. “Our quad axles didn’t fit. Maintenance work was an issue. It was a 30-45-minute cycle to head out and snowplow. To bring it up to code, it would have cost $4-$5 million.
“It was a great facility that served us well, but we were outgrowing it.”
The County, therefore, started looking for a new space. Due to I-94 and the need to keep that highway clear during the winter months, a location between Baldwin and Roberts was desired.
Studies had the first list down to 20-25 and then down to three, with a late addition coming in.
This late option, Krejci explained, was south of Baldwin, off of I-94.
“It fit us so well,” he said.
The St. Croix County Board of Supervisors agreed, and an agreement was reached with the Village of Baldwin for the 50-plus acre site on 300 Oak Ridge Parkway. Groundbreaking occurred March 2018 and was completed in June. An open house was held in September.
“It was an 18-month whirlwind,” Krejci explained. “We pushed very hard to meet that timeline.”
Over 40 contractors/subcontractors were involved in construction of the facility, with a majority of them being located 50 miles of the site.
Other interesting facts about the facility:
— Only 2/3 of the site was used, which leaves room for expansion
— A modern brine maker for producing winter maintenance brine (liquid anti-icing). Brine maker is capable of producing 300 gallons/minute with storage capacity of 21,000 gallons. (On a given winter storm, St. Croix County can have 50-60 pieces of equipment on the highways).
— A wash bay which includes a chassis wash designed to remove salt/debris.
— A diesel generator capable of operating the entire facility except the truck wash.
— The break room operates as a multi-purpose area that is a training room and back-up emergency operation center for St. Croix County.
— The project used 9,400 cubic yards of concrete. For example, the Hoover Dam had about 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete.
— 14 acres of wild flowers were planted.
— The main facility is geothermal ready, the office heating and cooling system is a variable refrigerant system which is 30 percent more efficient than a conventional system.
— Sustainable design items — Building materials contained recycled content, Energy efficient electrical and HVAC systems, Geothermal ready, LED lighting systems, Roof on maintenance bay capable of solar expansion, Storm water treatment/detention system and many others.
— An above ground fuel system capacity which houses 24,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of gasoline.
— A 22,000 salt shed capacity which brought one of the biggest smiles to Krejci’s face when describing the facility.
Krejci explained the past two winters left St. Croix County short on salt at times they’ve had to borrow from the State of Wisconsin to make ends meet (For the 2017-18 winter season, 14,635 tons of salt were used on WisDOT Highways in St. Croix County) .
“We’ve never had this before,” he said.
While clearing off the roads is the goal during the winter months, the rest of the year is spent fixing the roads.
The Highway Department is the sole maintenance provider for 16 of the 22 townships in the County. Last month, Krejci explained one week was split between plowing the roads and fixing the roads.
The old highway building in Hammond will have a new owner.
During the October St. Croix County Board of Supervisors, approval was reached to sell the building to Hanson Brothers, LLC.
The purchase price was $1.5 million including the tower. The agreement also called for Hanson Brothers to lease the tower back to St. Croix County for $1 a year for 10 years.
The closing date is set for January 6, 2020.