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Strasburg considers new home for Public Works Department

By Alex Bridges

A major Strasburg department will need a new home when the town expands its sewage treatment plant.

The Public Works Department could move to a site in the Northern Shenandoah Industrial Park, Director Mark Gundersen told a Town Council committee Monday. But the cost to build new administrative offices and storage areas for the department remains unknown.

Town officials advised council that a site in the industrial park contains features that make the land unsuitable for commercial development. The property,mowned by the Shenandoah County Industrial Development Authority, could serve as a site for the department's administrative offices and storage facilities.

Gundersen gave a presentation to the Infrastructure Committee, leading off with information about the department's expansive role in maintaining and repairing water and sewer pipes, streets and sidewalks, recreational sites and equipment. The department also responds to weather-related emergencies.

But the department shares space with the wastewater treatment plant. With limited room to grow to meet state and federal regulations, the expansion of the plant must use the area occupied by the department.

Town Manager Judson Rex said that part of the cost of providing these services includes needs for space and facilities. The discussion led by Gundersen moved into the reasons why the department needs more space.

"Our hope, and this really came out of the space-needs study, was to have a single, consolidated public works facility so that you have efficiencies that come from that," Rex said. "Right now they're kind of splintered up and it's somewhat inefficient."

The department requires space not only for staff but also supplies. The department stores tons of stone and materials near the wastewater treatment plant for road maintenance and other projects. Likewise, the storage facility holds tons of salt and chemicals used to handle snowfall.

A space needs study of the department conducted in October suggested the agency move its operations away from the sewer and water treatment plants. Such a facility should include space for deliveries of large amounts of materials and supplies as well as for storing large equipment, Gundersen said. The department should have more than 40,000 gross square feet of space for maintenance and administration. That amount does not include storage, parking or lay-down area for materials and supplies.

Rex told the panel that he could provide limited information on the proposed department facility because the design remains proprietary. Rex did describe the property and its location. Overhead, electrical power transmission lines run along utility easements that cover large portions of the property. Construction is restricted along the easements.

Councilman Scott Terndrup voiced support for use of the property as the site of a public works facility

"I just wanted to bring out that I thought it would be a good opportunity to be using a piece of land that would be suitable for our use and really not take away from industrial development," Terndrup said.

In response to a question from a resident in the audience Rex said staff with the town and Shenandoah County have weighed the idea of having Strasburg provide in-kind services at the industrial park in exchange for the property. In-kind services could include the clearing of pad sites by the town to make them more marketable, Rex said. The concept has not yet been proposed to the Industrial Development Authority. The property includes a low-lying area that could serve as a regional, stormwater collection pond for other occupants in the industrial parks, Rex said.

Town staff continues to work with firms or teams that submitted proposals through the Public Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act to expand the plant. The town sought submissions from interested parties after Strasburg received an unsolicited proposal to expand the plant. In the advertisement for proposals, the town asked interested teams to also include a way to solve the needs of the Public Works Department.

The town received seven proposals and narrowed the number down to two. Rex reminded members he couldn't disclose the cost figures included with the proposals because of their proprietary nature. Eventually, staff plan to present a recommended proposal to council for their approval.

Rex said staff asked the two teams to show what they could do for the department's space needs for about $3.5 million.

In response to a question from Councilman Richard Redmon, Gundersen explained that the department receives supplies via tractor-trailer. A consolidated facility would not need a nearby railroad.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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