Cost estimates, design options presented for city garage

By Jeffrey Pieters

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Plans are proceeding for a city garage and maintenance facility near the Rochester Public Utilities Service Center on East River Road that would cost $49 million to $62.7 million.

The city council on Monday heard a presentation about the garage, which will be, with its surrounding facilities, about twice as large as Rochester’s Fleet Farm store.

The garage will combine city buses, snowplows and other public works vehicles and equipment under one roof and will replace the 75-year-old garage on Fourth Street Southeast.


Council members were shown four design options for the new center, with base prices ranging from $49 million to $57.78 million. An additional $4.95 million in extras was proposed.

Discussion continues

The council had questions about the designs but didn’t make a choice. Discussion about the garage will resume next month as the council reviews the 2009 budget.

Based on a rough calculation, the service center would add perhaps 3.5 percent to 3.75 percent to the city tax levy as a 20-year bond is repaid. That’s assuming that the federal government pays a share of the transit-related parts of the service center. The federal government assumes up to 80 percent of the cost for transit.

Staff members urged the council to not commit to the project until the federal money is reasonably assured.

On the other hand, Public Works Director Richard Freese told city council members that construction materials and labor costs have been increasing recently by 9 percent a year.

"It’s not going to get any cheaper the longer we wait," he said.

The service center would be built to include energy efficiencies such as geothermal heating and cooling and would collect rain for washing vehicles.


Comparing centers

A new county garage is planned for the south side of Rochester, near Fleet Farm. The city’s facility would cost about $114 per square foot, close to the $120-per-square-foot cost calculated for the county garage.

City Administrator Steve Kvenvold warned council members to be ready to be asked why the city and county aren’t combining their garages. One reason is location. The city garage site is easily accessible to all areas of Rochester. The county garage is where it’s best for the county to cover its territory. The county shares garage space with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in north Rochester.

Freese said the city and county are setting aside spaces for each others’ vehicles at their two garages and that they’ll store sand and salt with one another.

"The sharing that we do now will continue. In fact, it may even expand," Freese said.

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