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MANKATO — Blue Earth County faces a choice within the next year: Spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make much-needed repairs to its public works facility in Mankato or build a new facility for almost the same cost.

That's what consultants with engineering firm CBS Squared told the Blue Earth County Board Tuesday.

County officials commissioned a feasibility report on the 45-year-old Mankato shop after public works employees found they'd have to spend up to $700,000 to replace all asphalt on the lot within the next year. Several other repairs also need to be done soon, including a replacement gasoline system to fuel vehicles and a replacement shed to store road salt as the existing shed is in disrepair.

Other issues include inadequate space for modern-day equipment, inadequate heating and ventilation systems, and little to no insulation in some parts of the shop buildings.

Adding up all the repairs, Bob Sworski of CBS Squared noted the price to renovate the space matched the price to build new facilities in three different spots on the outskirts of Mankato, at a little over $19 million. Yet if county officials built a new shop, they could sell the current shop's land for about $1.5 million.

The close price tag means county commissioners are left with a choice, Sworski said.

"When you start looking at those kinds of dollars, those are real dollars and at some point are we making the situation better or are we just dealing with it?" he said.

CBS Squared consultants recommended building a new facility to address ongoing needs and potentially save money through updated infrastructure and energy efficiency.

Commissioners said they would need more time to review the feasibility report, but several leaned toward building a new public works facility. Vance Stuehrenberg and Will Purvis noted the county's Mankato public works shop doesn't have room to expand in its current location. 

"We have to look at how the county is growing and what's happening," Vance said.

Purvis said the initial dollar estimates showing it would be cheaper to build new speak for themselves, but it will take county officials a while to draw up project plans and nail down costs.

"You don't make a decision to spend that much money lightly," he said.

Kip Bruender believes moving the shop would be beneficial, if nothing else than to get rid of road access issues for large trucks on Map Drive. While county officials don't expect public works equipment to get bigger over the next few decades, they say it's difficult enough to maneuver equipment or potentially add more as the county's population grows.

County Administrator Bob Meyer said it will take three to five years to prepare for either a major renovation or a new building altogether. And any decision the county makes will likely require public input before a new public works facility is built.

"It's an issue that we're starting to recognize that we're going to have to make investments." Meyer said. "It's coming down the road over the next few years, but it's not something that's going to happen next week."