By DENISE GRANT
When Hancock County’s road workers and their equipment move into the new engineer’s garage, it will be a historic step.
The $2.7 million garage off Lima Avenue is the first to be constructed specifically for the engineer’s office.
All other county garages have been retrofitted buildings, including the current one. The county engineer’s office moved to 1900 Lima Ave., the former home of a trucking company, in 1968.
Prior to that, the engineer’s garage was housed in a small building located behind Findlay’s Dairy Queen, at 614 Lima Ave.
Planning for a new garage began after several of the engineer’s buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed in the June 2012 windstorm.
In February 2013, the Hancock County commissioners rejected $3.9 million in bids for a garage. They settled with county Engineer Chris Long on a smaller, 32,800-square-foot garage, saving the county about $1.2 million.
In May 2013, the commissioners awarded a $2.7 million contract to Studer-Oberginger Inc., New Washington, for construction of the new building.
County workers have spent the past two winters operating out of a makeshift building.
While the new garage was under construction this winter, the weather was hard on both equipment and worker morale, said Steve Wilson, project manager for the Hancock County Engineer’s Office.
A total of 25 county employees and 19 dump trucks operate out of the garage.
“There was no real way to thaw the trucks out” this winter, Wilson said.
That’s hard on equipment, he said. Air lines and brake lines tend to freeze in severe cold, which means downtime, maintenance and added expense, he said.
Wilson said the new garage, where the county trucks will be parked at night, is heated.
The garage also has a wash bay and a separate welding bay, which is a big improvement over the current garage, Wilson said.
“Right now, when we are washing the trucks, you have to watch that you don’t get soaked down, too,” he said.
The entire new garage is bright. There is also plenty of storage, and a dedicated room for storing and moving county road signs.
Wilson said there are 12,000 signs throughout the county, and maintaining them is a full-time job. The county employs a “sign supervisor” for the work.
Wilson said the current garage was probably “the right size for the time,” but he said modern equipment is much larger.
“That means it moves more snow and more salt, but that also means it takes up more room,” he said.
The new building has also been constructed to allow room for future expansion. Wilson said two wings of the building will readily allow for additions.
Wilson said an open house will be held this summer, once the move has been made.