Engineer reveals updated designs for secondary roads yard project

May 14—Following their regularly scheduled meeting, the Jasper County supervisors on May 9 met with county engineer Michael Frietsch and representatives from an architectural firm to review the updated phase one designs of the new secondary roads yard project, which is currently out for bid.

Known colloquially as the Liberty Avenue Yard, the project will allow the county to fit all of its plow trucks into a large truck shed. In addition to keeping them heated during the winter, Frietsch told Newton Daily News that it will also let staff better maintain the vehicles and keep them out of the harsh elements.

"The other big thing, too, is just having a building that has the proper ventilation that we can go ahead and enclose it and shut the doors and do the maintenance we need to do on the trucks without worrying about carbon monoxide or other things being an issue," Frietsch said. "It has those safety systems in it."

Of course, the truck shed is also a jumping off point for all future phases of the project, which will eventually transfer all office staff to new office space.

Frietsch said the current facility is a "hodge-podge" of buildings built over different eras, and its functionality is very limited. The shop area, for example, is limited by door widths and floor support, and the systems he said are antiquated and "probably not the most optimal" by today's standards.

The new designs provided supervisors a better look at the magnitude of the project and the scope of work needed to complete the first phase. Apart from the truck shed, Frietsch said the first phase also installs a new fuel pump system and a salt shed for secondary roads crews.

There will be 12 bays for trucks or tandems, and a bay for the loader as well. The county also wants to include a space for pesticide storage.

So far, all of the mass earth work has been finished at the site, as well as some of the utilities work. Knowing the project would be fairly expensive to complete, Frietsch and the supervisors have attempted to keep costs down by using a wooden pole barn structure instead of a steel building.

"We're using infrared meters in lieu of in-floor heating, so that will see some cost savings as well. We tried to select equipment that adds good value to the project without high costs upfront," Frietsch said, noting he is hoping the project as a whole will only last for two phases.

The first phase of the project will develop the eastern four acres of the site, which is located near the sheriff's office. The remaining three acres on the west side will be developed in the latter phases. In comparison to the current yard site — which is four acres — the new yard will be seven acres.

Frietsch hopes the project and all of its subsequent phases will be fully completed within the next five years.

Brandon Talsma, chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, said after seeing the new designs of the project he realized it was going to be a lot bigger than what he originally thought. In the beginning he thought it would be a simple building with insulation and garage doors for vehicles.

"Obviously to meet code it's built a little bit more upon that, but it's good and I think it will be a lot nicer than what I was originally anticipating it to be," he said.

Does that also mean the project will be more expensive? Talsma said without knowing what the bids are he can't know for sure.

The supervisors chairman said the project is very much needed, adding the current facility and its location is not conducive for secondary roads operations. The current engineer's office is located in the 900 block of North 11th Avenue East in Newton and is surrounded by homes.

Which makes traveling to the county's gravel roads system challenging.

"It's constrictive," Talsma said. "They have to go through some tight areas, especially during winter months. Every single winter we end up having some sort of insurance claim because somebody ran into one of our trucks or our trucks clipped somebody else crossing First Avenue. It's in the middle of town."

Talsma also said the secondary roads crews are experiencing a bottleneck in its winter operations. All of the trucks are parked outside, but keeping them out in the elements causes more wear and tear on the equipment. Being able to park them in a heated shed will allow for more reliable start-ups, too.

"Right now when we're expecting a snow, we cannot pre-load those trucks the night before because we can't park them inside. They would be sitting outside with the snow and everything else," Talsma said. "When guys come in at 4:30 in the morning (at the new site), they know their trucks will be ready."