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Tours of city garage sites start today in Wakefield

 

April 14, 2021

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

TOURS OF Wakefield city garages will begin today at 5 p.m. at the city garage attached to the now-abandoned former city hall, shown here in a photo from earlier this year. The tours will include three existing city garage sites, as well as a projected new site in the city's industrial park, southwest of Sunday Lake. Additional tours will occur on Thursday at 5 p.m. and on April 21 and 22 at 5:30 p.m.

By P.J. GLISSON

[email protected]

Wakefield - City Manager Robert Brown, Jr. announced on Monday evening that tours of Wakefield city garage sites will begin today at 5 p.m.

While presenting a related slideshow at a regular meeting of the Wakefield City Council, Brown said the tours will allow the public to compare the three existing sites used by the Department of Public Works to the projected new site in the city's industrial park, southwest of Sunday Lake.

In addition to today's tour, additional tours also will be offered on Thursday at 5 p.m. and on April 21 and 22 at 5:30 p.m.

Each tour is expected to last about one hour and will begin at the city garage attached to the now-abandoned former city hall on Sunday Lake Street. Brown said the tour then will proceed to the quonset hut directly up the street and then to an additional cluster of garages located behind Drier's Machine Shop on Old U.S. 2.

Each tour will end at the industrial park, where a projected new site exists at the location of the former Lakeshore Equipment and Truck Sales, which closed in 2019. That site includes eight acres, three buildings and a total of about 11,500 square feet.

In order to secure the property, the city is working toward a $440,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office of Rural Development.

Although the purchase price of the new site is $400,000, Brown said the additional loan funds will cover financing, legal fees, the addition of a new vehicle lift at the new site, removal of the quonset hut, and a new front door on the municipal building.

While showing photos of the old sites, as well as the new location, Brown emphasized that the existing sites - most of which include buildings about a century old - have "outlived their useful life."

Brown said the old buildings have a list of problems, including inadequate height, heating, ventilation, lighting and insulation. Problems with windows and doors also result with lack of security, he said. In addition, dirt floors increase moisture, thereby increasing potential for equipment rust.

He added that multiple sites reduce worker efficiency and render the city vulnerable in relation to emergency response. Workers also now have no viable options for washing or maintaining equipment, resulting in increased expense for outsourcing those needs.

By contrast, he said the new site is the "most affordable alternative," is "in great condition," and in a single "central location." It also allows the city the option of selling part of the land and renting part of the structure space and/or offering "incubator" space for a start-up business.

Moreover, he emphasized that no rise in taxes will be needed to cover gradual repayment of the pending USDA loan. "We can afford it without raising taxes," he assured, explaining that costs have been budgeted within the general fund.

"We've been excited since last fall when we first took the tour of these buildings," said Mayor Dale White, who emphasized that the "numbers are good" in relation to the new site purchase. "I think we'd be almost foolish in not doing this."

White added that "naysayers" are few in relation to the pending new deal, and he encourages them to talk with city officials and to attend one of the scheduled tours.

Council Member Kay Wiita added that when you see the contrast of the old buildings with the potential new site, you really "appreciate" the difference.

"These buildings are an embarrassment to the city," said Council Member Amy Tarro, adding that she hopes the current "blight" they represent will be removed in due time.

During public comments, citizen Steve Hamilton said "I think it's absolutely a huge deal to get our Department of Public Works into a safe building."

The city manager said that the city currently is in a 45-day "referendum window" that ends on April 25. Up until then, he said Wakefield residents can request taking the matter to a public vote.

Brown said it will take several more weeks to close the USDA financing deal, but he told the Globe after the meeting that he is hoping DPW workers can move to the new site by late May and that the quonset hut can be dismantled this summer.

Council members also:

-Heard an annual report from Mike Singleton, chief of Wakefield's Volunteer Fire Department, who also offered thanks and presented plaques to former Chief Louis Boetto and former firefighter Tom Hamel, who recently retired from the department. The mayor added that the honors were "very well deserved" and "well earned." Hamel will continue to serve the Oma, Wisconsin, Volunteer Fire Department.

-Heard a presentation from Joe Maki, district governor of the District 10 Lions Club, who invited local officials to consider forming a Wakefield Lions Club. He noted that Lions clubs throughout the world serve a number of humanitarian causes relating to health, education, and general community support.

-Voted to approve a bid not to exceed $12,800 from Angelo Luppino, Inc. of Iron Belt, Wisconsin, for road repair in 20 locations relating to emergency repairs of water lines after weather damage.

-Voted to approve Resolution 289, which establishes that city meetings shall be offered in a hybrid format for the rest of the year, meaning that members of the public will be free to attend virtually or in person with COVID-safe restrictions.

-Learned from Brown that city officials have determined that Phase 1 of a sewer project at Eddy Park Campground will begin this spring. He added that the system will be "all gravity" with no need for pumps. The campground is expected to open by May 28.

-Learned from Brown that repair of the city's main pump station is still holding, with city officials expecting word later this week on the status of whether a "compatible" radio receiver can be purchased via eBay and then reprogrammed as needed to replace the existing "antiquated" unit. If that is not possible, he said a much more expensive upgrade may be needed. Meanwhile, he said overtime costs are required for city workers to turn the pumps on and off manually.

-Heard the mayor offer extended praise to the city manager in relation to his consistent work ethic and success in pursuing a number of city grants while juggling multiple projects. "He's got so much stuff going on I can't keep up with it," said White.

The council's next regular meeting will be on April 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the municipal building. Members may attend virtually by getting the related link from the city's Facebook page or by calling 906-229-5131. Persons also may attend in person with COVID-19 protocols in place.

 
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