EATON — Madison County Blue Collar Unit members and county officials recently unveiled the county’s new highway garage in July in the Town of Eaton.
With a price of $16 million, the county saved thousands of dollars and came in under budget, partially by having county Highway Department workers do the site work and landscaping for the project in-house.
From cutting down trees to clear the land to paving, the highway crew helped transform the rural site into one suitable for a 51,000-square-foot building, a sizeable cold storage building, salt storage and a fueling area.
Almost all the work was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers were able to socially distance due to the nature of their work and keep the project moving, and county officials — and taxpayers — were happy they did.
Had the site work not been done on time, the project could have seen a major cost increase due to supply chain issues when lumber and steel prices skyrocketed.
Jason Leland, a unit steward, works on the county bridge crew and helped with the project.
“The [county]knows the work gets done and gets done right,” Leland said. “We do save the county money when we do things in-house. If you can save even $80,000 or $100,000 on a project, that’s a lot of money.”
Not only did it save taxpayers money, but it kept CSEA highway members employed during the height of the pandemic when so many workers were getting furloughed or laid off.
“[Helping with the garage project] has given me more experience doing stuff like that,” Leland said. “Once you get done with something like that, you feel good about the work you do.”
New home for highway crew
The previous garage, built in 1948, had many issues that were resolved with building a new facility.
First was size. The original garage couldn’t fit larger equipment and trucks that are commonly used today, and there was limited space for any other work.
“For years now, we have known that a new facility was needed to serve the southern part of our county,” Madison County Board Chairman John Becker said at the ribbon cutting. “The old garage was not adequate or safe for our equipment or for our employees.”
All the new space and the new salt storage will come in handy as the Madison County crew takes on yet another snow and ice season.
“The garage is nice. We’re fortunate to have it,” Leland said.
— Nicholas Newcomb
Top Photo: Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker, center, visits with county Highway Department crew members to thank them for their hard work during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.