City settles into new public works building

Monday, August 15, 2005

Workers move out of the Kingshighway facility into larger structure on Southern Expressway.

Tim Gramling admired his new office Friday, but it took a little imagination.

The office was little more than an empty room. No desk, no chair, no phone.

But by today, Cape Girardeau's public works director and about 100 employees planned to be settling into the new public works building at 2007 Southern Expressway.

City crews spent Friday unloading equipment and getting the building ready for occupancy.

Gramling couldn't be happier with his department's new location. The 94,000-square-foot building is nearly double the size of the department's former quarters at 219 N. Kingshighway.

"The old building was so inefficient," Gramling said. "We had holes in the walls and the roof leaked."

City officials had long wanted to move out of the cramped quarters. The former Richardson Tire Co. building has housed public works operations for 27 years.

But Gary Kitchen, the city's fleet foreman, said he grew accustomed to the aging brick building on Kingshighway.

Unlike some of his co-workers, Kitchen said he'll miss the old building.

"All the rest of them are tickled to death to get out of here, but this place has grown on me," he said Friday.

"It's kind of like getting rid of an old car. You hate to see it go, but you know it has to go," he said.

Moving is hard work, he said. Kitchen helped move public works equipment into the Kingshighway facility in 1978.

But this time around, there's more equipment to move, he said.

Public works crews began moving into the former Jim Wilson auto parts building on Southern Expressway earlier this summer.

The facility includes more than 80,000 square feet of warehouse space. Gramling said that will provide needed space to house, fix and maintain city vehicles.

"Now most everything will be under roof," he said. That should help extend the life of the public works vehicles, Gramling said.

Getting into and out of the public works site will be easier too, he said. The Kingshighway location is along one of the city's most heavily traveled roads. Gramling said that made it hard at times just to pull out of the driveway.

Traffic is much lighter on Southern Expressway, he said.

In February, the city announced it would buy the vacant, Wilson building for $1.6 million and convert it into the city's new public works building.

In April, three Cape Girardeau businessmen agreed to buy the old public works building on Kingshighway and the six acres at that site for $1 million, a move that helped the city recover costs associated with its new public works site.

But the sale of the Kingshighway property won't be completed until the end of September at the earliest, Gramling said.

So the city still has time to finish clearing out of the Kingshighway location, he said.

The city's solid waste crews and the recycling center will continue to operate out of the Kingshighway facility for probably the next two months, Gramling said.

By October, the city hopes to have those operations relocated to the new facility.

But the trash trucks can't be relocated just yet. "We don't have a wash bay yet and they have to wash the garbage trucks every night," Gramling said.

Without such a bath, the odor would be unbearable, he said.

Some other improvements are still needed at the new facility. The city has to enlarge a number of the former loading-dock entrances so the larger public works vehicles can easily drive in and out of the building.

But the new fuel pumps and tanks are in place just outside the building. Gramling said his crews will be able to gas up city vehicles beginning today.

City crews have done much of the renovation work, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs.

City workers have done a lot of the concrete work. "Our guys know concrete," Gramling said.

The facility and some 10 acres of property will serve the city's public works needs for a long time, he said.

The public works director figures he won't have to supervise another moving day in his career with the city. Said Gramling, "I figure it is once in a lifetime for me."

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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