TWIN FALLS • The days of trucks being moved single-file into and out of antiquated garages soon will be a thing of the past for the City of Twin Falls. Starting next spring, a newly renovated public works building will accommodate the Water and Wastewater departments comfortably.
That’s a big relief to employees toiling in cramped garages and dated offices.
Water Superintendent Rob Bohling directs his crews from a building that is noncompliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a structure where elderly residents must struggle up steep, narrow stairs.
Bohling said he and his crews face many challenges, including a computer system that sometimes can’t keep up with the city’s mapping system and garages that barely can hold trucks and equipment.
“I’ve been here for 16 years, and (a new public works building) was being talked about prior to that,” he said. “It’s been going on so long, a lot of guys have almost given up hope.”
But the city now will spend $152,605 to renovate a 20,000-square-foot building formerly owned by Sun Valley Stages, plus $25,000 for a locker room with showers, the Twin Falls City Council voted Aug. 5.
Everything is ready except for the offices and locker rooms, said Jerry Auten, supervisor of wastewater collection.
“We’ll have a lot more space,” Auten said. “There will be individual offices. We’ll have a lot more space to park our equipment. To have everything there when we need it ... We don’t have to go to different buildings to get more equipment that we need, and plus we’re next to the other departments and we’ll be able to go along with what they’re doing. They can ask us to do this; we can ask them to do that. It will work out pretty well.”
Auten’s six workers share some of the dirtiest work in town, maintaining the city’s 100-year-old sewer line. They have a shower to clean off when they need it. But the 22-person water crew doesn’t. When they get dirty or cold, the water workers drive home to shower and change clothes, which is time-consuming and burdensome.
“On the day-to-day stuff, it’s usually not too bad,” Bohling said. “When we have emergencies late at night in the wintertime, we get into some situations. With the guys on main breaks, they’ll go out and have to be waist-deep in water. They’ll be out there in 10-degree weather, freezing cold.”
The new locker rooms will make a big difference, he said, “just being able to get the guys back in warm clothes, clean clothes, warmed up, dried off and back out on the job without having to send them clear home. Some of our guys live in Jerome, Buhl and Kimberly.”
The offices and locker rooms are expected to be complete by April, said city spokesman Joshua Palmer.
The new public works building also will have an 11,000-square-foot equipment yard, which will be shared with other departments.
Some departments already are using the structure for storage, Palmer said
The building that had housed the Streets Department was condemned a year ago and now is slated for demolition. Those workers, who temporarily have been in a metal equipment building, will move into the 5,600-square-foot structure now occupied by the Water Department, said city Streets Superintendent Dean Littler.
The city maintenance shop now shares space with the Wastewater Department, and it will take over that existing garage when the wastewater operation moves out.