Wakefield city starts tours of garage sites
April 16, 2021
By P.J. GLISSON
A second tour was expected on Thursday afternoon, and two additional tours are scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Anyone wishing to attend should call the municipal building at 906-229-5131 to RSVP.
Wednesday's tour started at the century-old garage attached to the former City Hall on Sunday Lake Street. The city abandoned the hall in 2014, but the garage remains in use by Public Works officials.
"This is our working shop," said Public Works Director Mike Sibley. He added, however, that it is so difficult to do repairs within the cramped quarters that some work must be outsourced.
Sibley said the garage holds three graders, a front-end loader, a vactor truck and a street sweeper. When equipment needs repair, Sibley said that one of the vehicles must be removed from the garage in order to accommodate the work.
The city owns almost no land behind the building, and the single off-center exit in front requires backing out the large equipment into the main street.
Despite attempts to improve the garage's lighting, Sibley said it still was not adequate and claimed that the building looks the same as it did when he was hired by the city nearly three decades ago.
"You wouldn't put your car in something that was going to cave in," said Council member Amy Tarro in summarizing the vulnerability of the structure.
The second stop of the tour was a metal building known as "the Cuonset Hut", directly south of the Wakefield Fire Hall on Sunday Lake Street.
That building - which city officials often mock - holds the city's garbage truck, along with detached plow pieces, signage, benches, and other items. City Manager Robert Brown, Jr., who refers to the hut as one of the town's "worst eyesores," said he hopes to have it dismantled this summer.
Around the corner from the quonset hut on old U.S. 2 is the city's third current public works site, which is a cluster of three buildings behind Drier's Machine Shop.
Sibley said the largest building there - estimated to have been built in 1948 - holds three dump trucks, a backhoe, a sand truck and a boom mower. It also holds an old fire truck that is currently up for sale.
Another building on that site holds equipment appendages, sewer pipes, old panel pieces from the city's lift station, and other items. The back of that building has collapsed.
A third, smaller building is used to store road salt.
City officials concur that all of the old sites have deteriorated beyond repair, with the buildings off of Old U.S. 2 riddled with countless chinks in ceilings, walls and windows and dirt floors encouraging equipment rust.
The tour closed at the pending new site in the industrial park, southwest of Sunday Lake. Once used for the former Lakeshore Equipment and Truck Sales, which closed in 2019, that site includes two industrial buildings that Department of Public Works officials hope to use as a centralized location as of the start of summer.
The city manager said that he already has lease requests for a third building there, which includes four separate office areas, as well as a file room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a spacious closet for cleaning supplies.
Dan Maki, the current property owner who has agreed to sell the site to the city for $400,000, said he is leaving all furniture within the office building, which was built in the late 1990s and added to about a decade later.
All three buildings have bathrooms, and the largest industrial building behind the office also includes a small break room with a kitchen and multiple cubbyholes for storage.
While showing one bay of the smaller industrial building, Sibley said, "This is where the mechanic is going to do all his work." He said the city might rent out a second bay of that building, which has 16-foot doors.
The largest industrial building at the new site has 14-foot doors on the front and back, as well as service doors. Sibley said that the drive-through capacity will facilitate an "easy-in, easy-out" movement of the city's graders, dump trucks and sand truck.
Maki, who said that building - which he estimates was constructed in 1978, with a later addition - has had several upgrades in relation to utilities and insulation. He added that it features two natural gas heaters to allow one to act as a back-up unit.
Both industrial buildings at the new site have cement floors and sound structural security for what the city manager estimated is "millions of dollars" of value in city vehicles.
Brown, who expects word on a related U.S. Department of Agriculture loan by later this spring, has emphasized that the city's general fund is more than adequate to address the loan and financing without raising citizen taxes.
He encourages anyone hesitant about the pending purchase to call the city to schedule one of next week's tours.