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New public works building was a long time coming

Work is progressing well on Empire Township's new storage building. The building will also include meeting space.

Besides the fact it's the first building Empire Township has built in more than three decades, Jeff Hince is excited for the township's new maintenance facility to be completed for one simple reason.

"I'm looking forward to working in there this winter," said the township's maintenance supervisor, "because I won't have to stand in front of a space heater anymore."

The new maintenance building, so far called just the Empire maintenance site, is under construction on township-owned land on the north side of County Road 66, just west of Biscayne Avenue. And providing the weather stays decent over the next few weeks, it should be completed by the end of the year.

For years, Hince said, the township has stored its maintenance equipment in a barn near the intersection of Highway 3 and CR 66. That's been fine, but it's limiting.

"We're growing out of that area, and Highway 3 is such a bear to get in and out of it," Hince said.

Plus, the current storage space is cold. Not that Hince's personal comfort is the reason township supervisors decided to go ahead with the maintenance facility. The project has been in the works for several years already and the township had sought bids for the project once before, but those bids came back high. They decided to wait and try it again later, Hince said. The second time around, the bids were more conservative, and township officials decided to go ahead with the construction.

Lots of space

The front of the building, closest to CR 66, will be a general gathering space where the the township can hold parks and recreation programs or youth organizations can meet. It's a 40-foot by 60-foot room that suitable for many uses, Hince said. There's an area built in for a future kitchenette. It also has room for storage.

The next section includes two small garages. That area, Hince said, will be a shop area, where smaller equipment, park benches and other things can be stored. There's also some office space in that section, plus the bathrooms and mechanical room.

Above that is a 40-foot by 60-foot mezzanine that provides additional storage room.

"We're trying to utilize some of that head room because there's a lot of head room in that shop area," Hince said.

The back part of the building, the warehouse, includes four large stalls. Built with room for future expansion, the 60-foot by 140-foot space will hold all of the larger maintenance equipment, street trucks, parks and recreation vehicles and mowers.

Township officials first identified the need for a maintenance facility about three years ago, back when the Southern Hills Golf Course was to be developed into housing. It was a time when the township was experiencing a lot of growth, and had lots of plans. And though the growth has stalled, the new maintenance facility project went ahead.

"A lot of plans didn't," Hince said, "but we're still looking at the future. We're looking at this building lasting us a good 30 years."

As it turns out, it's been almost 40 years since the last time the township put up a public building. The water tower on Highway 3 was built in 1997, but the last actual building the township built was town hall, built in 1972.

The land it is on is part of 17 acres that was donated by a developer as parkland. Since the maintenance facility only covers a portion of the site, township officials have talked about one day building another park on the remaining space, or, more immediately, another ice rink for the winter skaters.