VALPARAISO | A collective sigh of relief from the Valparaiso Public Works Department crew could probably be heard for miles Thursday as the deadline passed for anyone to remonstrate against the proposed bond issue to building a new public works campus.
"You never know until it's over, and we are in desperate need for a facility," Public Works Director Matt Evans said. "I was cautiously optimistic to get excited until the remonstrance period passed. Fortunately, the citizens agree we need a new building."
The City Council approved a resolution at its April 8 meeting stating its intention to enter into a lease with a building corporation for the new facilities, which will be built with a bond issue. That began a 30-day period for residents to collect 100 signatures against it. The bond is expected to be $5.25 million, which would be paid off over a 17-year period.
The bond issue isn't expected to change the residents' tax bills because it would replace a parks department bond that will be paid off this year. The new facilities will increase the space under roof from 25,000 to about 40,000 square feet and enable the department to store and maintain all its equipment indoors.
It will be built on a portion of a 30-acre site the city owns at the sewage treatment plant on Joliet Road. Evans said the city will be working with Chester Inc. on the final designs with the goal of starting construction before the end of the year and having it ready for occupancy as soon as March 2014.
"I'm really excited about this project," Mayor Jon Costas said. "It's not a really visible or emotional project, but it is so important. This was part of our original strategic plan nine years ago, and it's almost the only one we haven't been able to get done. In that sense I'm really pleased because, even though it's a little late, it will provide a safer, more efficient environment and serve our citizens for decades."
By collaborating with the utilities department, the city expects the new facilities to share administrative space and a call center and have a mechanic's shop to service vehicles for both departments, and, eventually, possibly other city departments.
Being able to store all its equipment indoors will prolong the life of vehicles, and the proximity with the sewage treatment facility will make it easier to provide wood chips for the treatment plant's composting venture, Evans said.
"We've been looking at this for a long time, and we have an understanding of what we really need," Costas said. "We were thinking about the former Indiana Beverage site, but in the long term this is a better solution and we will be able to lure a company to the other building."