By Emily Bialkowski
The Houston County highway shop is not in a good state of repair. It’s actually quite bad and suffers from cracked block, water damage and seepage, unfit doors and frames, plywood patches for missing windows, holes in windows and peeling facia, among other problems.
Resident Chuck Schulte brought the issue before the Houston County Board Jan. 22 for a second time.
“This is what you see when you pull up to the Houston County Highway Department building,” he said while supplying those in attendance with over 20 images of the structure.
“It looks pretty tacky but that’s just a small part of it,” he said, adding that he’s heard employees have been told not to do any maintenance on the building, though he didn’t provide any names in that regard.
After shuffling through the images he asked, “Can we all agree there’s something wrong?” and, “Is there a long-term plan?”
Commissioner Steve Schuldt agreed that, “the building is a problem. There has been a plan, I guess, to replace it.”
Schuldt mentioned a 22-acre parcel that was purchased by the county north of Caledonia for such an effort. That parcel was, however, going to be put up for bid this winter until the county realized doing so would have broken a lease agreement and created financial penalties.
The county was going to sell the land for around $300,000 and turn the money over to improve or construct a new highway shop at the current location on East Washington Street in Caledonia.
Schuldt asked Schulte his thoughts on putting up a new building.
“Why would I want to support that when you didn’t take care of what you had. The problems with this building were preventable. I don’t understand the mentality,” Schulte said, adding that he doesn’t believe the constituency would support such a project either.
“I don’t think you have the option to sit here and do nothing,” he warned.
Neither option – fixing the old building or putting up a new structure – seems attractive as the county faces extreme budget demands and a dwindling general fund.
“I don’t think it’s going to be cheap at all. You can shovel a lot of money into an old house and it’s still an old house. I would rather put something new up that will be more functional,” Schuldt said.
Schulte suggested the board get some solid numbers on what it would cost to shore up the old structure before even considering putting up something new.
The topic floats above the board’s head like a heavy cloud and is garnering new attention from the most recent additions to the board.
Commissioner Dana Kjome said, “I was out there two weeks ago and was shocked at the condition of it. I was floored.”
According to Commissioner Justin Zmyewski, about $27,000 has been set aside for repairs and maintenance.