Two Victoria Facilities

The City of Victoria is trying to replace two old city buildings with two new buildings — a new Public Works facility and a new City Hall.  In addition to over a year of work and planning, the city conducted tours and a special public meeting on July 9th.  I attended the tours and the meeting.

Editor Sue

Ann Mahnke, Victoria's Director of Public Works who also wears the hat of Victoria's Park and Recreation Director, conducted tours of the old Public Works building and site on July 9th along with Chuck Almhjeld, Public Works Superintendent.

They patiently answered questions about the building, the equipment, the space, the property.

We could see that the building is full of equipment and that vehicles are stacked in front or in back of each other, that much maneuvering is necessary, and there is very little space between the various vehicles.  The first "No Exit" sign in the photo at right leads into a bathroom that is limited in function.  Ann said the guys prefer to use the restroom at the Water Treatment Plant.  The other "No Exit" sign leads to a small storage room.

Chuck said there is mold throughout the metal building and that it would be cost prohibitive to fix it.  The building was constructed in 1982.  The city will be required to fill in (close) the drains in the garage floor because of oils, salt, etc., that comes off the trucks.

A second "room" in the Public Works building houses larger equipment which is also stacked.  Smaller pieces and mowers are parked in back of the monster trucks.  The tank to the right of Chuck stores salt brine used for anti-icing during snowplow operations.

Chuck said that several pieces of machinery have to be stored outdoors because there is no more space left indoors.  He said that each of the pieces in the above photo averages about $5,000 in cost.  Other pieces are located around other corners.  He said a couple of them are made of steel so they're not rusting.

Larger vehicles like snow plows and the road grader must also be stored outdoors along with trailers, timber, and materials that employees use in repair and maintenance work.

Longtime residents of Victoria know that this Public Works site, which is located along Stieger Lake Lane across from HEI, was formerly the City Dump.  In some ways it still is.

Years ago, people could dump everything.  Chuck said that sometimes the whole side of the hill appears to be moving because of all the snakes that are moving around.  Snakes have found homes in the hollows and spaces of the dump below the surface which is now overgrown with weeds and trees.

A trailer was moved onto the site (which is 1.65 acres in size) in January 2011 to serve as office space, meeting space, and employee lunchroom.  There are not adequate restroom facilities for employees.  A plan was mentioned whereby this property, which is surrounded by the Three Rivers Park District, could go to the Park -- either through a swap or a sale.

City Hall in downtown Victoria was the next site to visit.

Prior to renovation into City Offices in 1982, the building was the old Fire Hall.  The insides have seen other renovations.  In 2001 the former Council Chambers was renovated into a Conference Room.  Also at that time, the Hall was changed from a gym into a carpeted facility to accommodate council and other city meetings.  The first Victoria City Council meeting was conducted there in January 2001.

Part of the tours that afternoon, Mayor Tom O'Connor pointed out a problem area in City Offices where there is a water leak.

In 2002 walls in City Offices were moved and new ones constructed, acquiring a new door, creating a file room and work center, redoing the electrical system.

Below the desk that he is standing near is a source of petroleum odor that is strongest in that location.  Holly Kreft, Community Development Director, said the odor is of unknown origin.  There is a damp musty smell throughout city offices.  Water enters the back of the building when it rains.

In 2009 the city spent $100,000 to improve the air quality due to mold and ventilation issues.  This was seen, even at the time, as a temporary fix until a new City Hall could be constructed.

Today there are nine desks/offices within the original 2,500 square feet of the former Fire Hall, including one shared desk space.  Two of the offices (for Manager Don Uram and Finance Director Kelly Grinnell) each have a window; the others do not.  File cabinets and shelves are dispersed throughout City Offices wherever there is an empty space while still allowing movement and function.

The full timers were Administrator Larry Bodahl, Planner Joe Rudberg, Clerk Germaine Jesberg, Public Works Superintendent Wink Gay, and Public Works Assistant Kevin Schmieg.  The part timer was Park & Rec Director Doug Aretz.  Population of Victoria in 1982 was 1,800.

Thirty years later there are 17 full time employees (8 at City Office, 2 at the Rec Center, 7 in Public Works) plus 2 part timers at City Office and 2 seasonal in Public Works.  City Manager Don Uram has spoken of an urgent need to fill 2 open positions  -- one at City Offices and one in Public Works, which makes 19 full timers. 

Population of Victoria is around 8,000 today, which is more than four times the population in 1982.  City office staff has doubled since 1982.  The size of City Offices has remain unchanged.

Eighty to 90 people attended the tours and information meeting that Tuesday, July 9th.

Much of the information from this public meeting can be found in the City Scoop pages of the August 2013 issue of the Victoria Gazette — in both the print and online editions.

Back in 1982 when the old Fire Hall was renovated into City Offices (the adjacent Village Hall was still a gymnasium at that time with little or no connection to city business), the City of Victoria had 5 full time employees and one part time employee.