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Franklin looks to expand its Water & Sewer facility

The Franklin Water and Sewer department staff wedges five vehicles into two garage bays for enclosed storage at its Airways Avenue building.

The Franklin Water and Sewer department staff wedges five vehicles into two garage bays for enclosed storage at its Airways Avenue building. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Sept. 2, 2014

Franklin — Built in 1985, Franklin's Water and Sewer facility is now cramped, and has been for some time.

Over the years, the facility has seen the addition of more people, more equipment, and more vehicles to the point where the city is now considering what must be done to accommodate it all.

The 2,800-square-foot building, located at 5550 W. Airways Ave., was originally designed to accommodate the city's Water and Sewer Department, which purchases water from Oak Creek and distributes it across the community.

What's crammed in

Whereas four people worked there at the start, the department now operates with 10 employees in the original facility, despite cramped conditions.

The building's operation room, which contains three computer stations, is only a few feet from the meter test bench used to measure the city's water meters. Between 45 and 50 tests are conducted each month.

"Electronics and water aren't a great mix," acting City Engineer Ron Romeis said during a tour of the facility. "It's a tight fit for what they're doing in here."

The operation room isn't the only tight fit in the building.

A computer workstation is located directly behind a parking spot for one of the department's trucks. Five other vehicles, varying in size, are parked inside the building's attached garage.

The proximity of the garage doors to the workstations also affects the room temperature, said Mike Roberts, superintendent of the Sewer and Water department.

"You lose about eight hours worth of heating (in winter) or cooling (in summer) just by opening the bay door," Roberts said.

Lacking garage space

Key vehicles used by the department no longer fit within the facility, despite efforts to accommodate them.

An outside garage, built 20 years ago as a high school project, stores a larger vehicle. The garage door was intentionally bowed out six inches to fit the vehicle inside.

"At any given time, we have two to three vehicles parked outside because there's just no room," Romeis said.

The department also utilizes up to four other facilities for storage across the city because of the lack of space, he said.

"The conditions are incredible," Romeis said, "We've been at capacity for about 15, 20 years … but this just goes to show how these guys can adapt to get the job done."

Expansion plans

A space analysis study on the building, conducted in 2008 by Graef-USA Inc., found that the facility was too small for operations.

The Board of Water Commissioners recommended suspending any action regarding the study due to economical concerns at the time, but land surrounding the facility was purchased with the intent of future expansion.

Graef-USA Inc. later designed a concept plan for a 16,900-square-foot addition to the existing building — an expansion of more than six times that of the current facility.

Recognizing the need for a larger facility, the Common Council unanimously agreed on Aug. 19 to accept bids for a new building.

The concept design for the addition includes 13,600 square feet for vehicle and equipment storage and 3,300 square feet for offices, work stations, a conference room and locker rooms.

The new building would also contain energy-efficient features, such as skylight fixtures.

The existing facility would be used solely for storage.

The project, estimated to cost $3 million, would be funded through the city's Water and Sewer funds, with each fund absorbing half the cost. The project was included in the city's 2014 budget.

The city is scheduled to award a bid on Oct. 7 with a possible construction date of Oct. 15.

Roberts said he was hopeful the expansion would be approved.

"Bringing everything under one roof would make it easier for us," he said. "It would help improve our efficiency and operations."

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