VALPARAISO | The city is ready to get started on the last big project from the first strategic plan prepared when Mayor Jon Costas first took office nine years ago.
The city's Board of Public Works and Safety approved a contract with Chester Inc. to do preliminary designs for a new public works department campus on the grounds of the city's sewage treatment plant. Cost of the design is $7,200 and will include a recommendation on the best place to locate the facilities.
Utility Director Steve Poulos said the treatment plant has several areas totaling more than 40 acres that could be used. Some of it was used for drying the treated sewage sludge but has been reclaimed over the past decade because the sludge is land applied. Some areas are unsuitable because they are in the Salt Creek flood plain.
City Administrator Bill Oeding said, "The hope is we can start construction by early fall, and it will be done by next summer."
"It's long overdue and is a very important facility for the future of our city," Costas said. "I'm excited we will finally have a final plan in place. It's a good central location, and there will be maintenance and cost efficiencies for the two departments."
Public Works Director Matt Evans said the existing campus is five or six acres and the city is looking at about 12 acres at the treatment plant. The buildings at the Axe Avenue facilities have holes in the walls and the floors slant so the desk and file cabinets in Evans's office have to have wedges to level them.
Another big problem is storing vehicles. Some vehicles now are stored in the salt barn, and Evans said the corrosive nature of the salt in the air damages the trucks.
Costas said the plan is to build the campus with existing revenues. A parks bond issue will be paid off this year, and the money that had been going for that will be used to finance the public works project. The proposed site has the added advantage of already being owned by the city.
The city had considered using the former North Coast Distributing site on Silhavy Road for the campus but would rather get another taxpaying entity to buy and locate there. Although it has taken a long time to start the project, Costas said, "It will work out better in the long run. It will serve the city for decades to come."
Oeding said the current public works yard is "a handy place for other uses." After the move, the site will be cleaned up, and among the possible uses being considered are for the parks horticulture department, the V-Line offices and parking, a police department impound yard or parking for the Porter County buses.