In August 2017, Keith Berndt started his new job as the Redwood County engineer. In that role, he began having discussions with the county commissioners about the future of the highway department, and on the list of priorities was addressing the highway shop located west of Redwood Falls.

As Berndt investigated the shop, which included having conversations with those who are employed by the county regarding the building, he soon learned that finding a solution needed to be a priority.

Ultimately, that task took a different path than most expected, but those who have been part of the process of the new location are satisfied with the result – a nearly brand new building for a lot less cost. 

The new location was initially erected in 2013 and includes 39,000 square feet of space for the shop and office. There is also an 11,000-square-foot cold storage building on the site with several acres for potential growth.

The county purchased the building for $2.2 million. At the time the county agreed to the purchase the price tag was $5.2 million. The purchase became official in April 2018 when the county bought the building from Sterling Properties of Fargo, N.D.

According to Berndt, during the process of determining the future of the highway shop in Redwood Falls he discovered a file that included architectural plans for the shop west of town from 1995.

“This is a project that has been in the works for quite a while,” said Berndt, who added the former building required a lot of work with mechanical, electrical and structural repairs needed.

Berndt also said the board was cautious about moving forward with a proposal to purchase the former Titan building, adding he and the board carefully considered what was the best fit and was in the best interest of the county as a whole.

During the process of putting together a final plan for the highway department, Berndt said he worked on a proposal for an entirely new building on that old site, which he said would have been smaller than the building the county purchased and would have likely had a price tag in the $6-7 million range. That, Berndt added, was based on inquiries he made with other counties that had recently erected new buildings or were in the process of doing that.

In other words, the county purchased a nearly new building that essentially met all of its needs and then some for less money than it would have spent had it started with a new building on its former site.

Berndt said there were a few changes that had to be made to the building, including the changeover of the new office area, but, for the most part, the county did not have to put a lot of money into getting the building ready for the move.

According to Berndt, the county has the option to share some of its space with other agencies and governmental units, and the county is currently in negotiations with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to utilize some of the space on the site. There has also been some talk about erecting a new winter salt and chemical storage structure that the county and MnDOT could share.

The county is also planning to do some other projects, including the installation of new fuel tanks on the site, with improved lighting and new signage, too.

Equipment the county is using was too big for the existing shop, said Berndt, who said the new space allows for the highway department mechanics to do its work indoors. The new space allows for a lot more of that equipment inside, still allowing for space to work.

The county is currently discussing how to market the former highway department property, and Berndt said they are having discussions with developers and realtors about what that land could be used for in the future.

Berndt said the land is ideally located next to an existing residential area, and it is also located next to Ramsey Park.

Berndt said he is happy with the outcome of the process, adding he believes that the investment the county has made responsibly utilized county tax dollars and will serve the county well.