Blue Earth County drops planned site for county shop

·3 min read

Aug. 31—MANKATO — Following opposition from neighbors, Blue Earth County has dropped plans to build a new public works facility just outside the south edge of Mankato along Stoltzman Road.

The change leaves doubt as to whether the location and planning can be finished this year so that construction could start next summer as had been hoped for.

The eventual cost of the project is also uncertain as construction costs have skyrocketed since earlier design plans were made.

County Administrator Bob Meyer said three neighborhood meetings in the area around the Living Word Church brought a number of concerns from residents.

"Traffic was a big thing, pedestrian safety, noise, smells, the industrial elements they believe come with a public works facility."

Meyer said he didn't believe all those concerns were accurate, especially considering the existing public works facility has been operating within the city, off Map Drive, for decades.

The neighborhood meetings were required under the city and township land-use process.

"I appreciate that people came and listened and gave us feedback," Meyer said.

While the county had focused on five sites, all south of the city, Meyer said staff and the County Board will likely expand their search to other areas around the fringe of Mankato.

The County Board settled on the site in June after spending months looking at five sites in the area, all within about two miles of Mankato.

After the neighborhood meetings, the county proposed changes to the plan, including moving the main building farther back from the road, changing access points, and adding landscaping to reduce sight and noise concerns. But opposition persisted.

Other sites the county had considered included the corner of County Road 8 (Monks Avenue) and 200 Street, just south of Minnesota State University; a site farther south on County Road 16, next to Country Road 90; land farther to the east, on County Road 8 (Monks Avenue) and County 90; and County Road 16 near Township Road 157 and south of County Road 90. That site is on part of the old County Poor Farm property, which the county owns.

Commissioners said that while land costs may be less farther out of Mankato, it might be offset by the higher costs of getting city utilities to the site.

The main building in the new public works facility would be about 90,000 square feet, plus another unheated storage building.

A feasibility study the county did last year had the estimated "all in" project cost of the project at about $26 million, with the building construction costs estimated at $20 million. With rising construction costs, those numbers will certainly be higher when the county settles on a final location and construction timeline.

The county has for the past few years been looking at a new facility to replace the nearly 50-year-old shop on Map Drive, just off Stadium Road east of Minnesota State University. The facility is overcrowded, can't be expanded, and access for the big equipment going in and out is difficult on the busy Stadium Road.

In 2019 a consultant said purchasing land and building new would cost similar to doing all the upgrade work that would be needed at the current facility. Commissioners also said moving the shop outside of the city would make operations safer and easier and allow for future expansion of the shop.