Monroe copes with rising costs on major projects

Fire station renovation and Public Works building are part of city plans, but new trail is in jeopardy.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

MONROE — City leaders discussed three major projects this week as Monroe deals with escalating construction costs, a challenge for many municipalities.

During the Public Works committee meeting Tuesday night, members heard presentations from Public Works Director Gary Morton regarding the construction of the Public Works building, the building of the Great Miami River Trail and the renovation of Fire Station 62.

The estimated costs of the fire station and Public Works building, following initial design work, were so high Morton didn’t want to share the price tags until the scope of the projects were scaled down, he said.

Once that happens, Morton told the members he would be prepared to “come back with a more realistic approach.”

Public Works building

Morton said the estimated cost of the new Public Works building keeps rising. He said the building will be about 100,000 square feet and earlier was estimated to cost $15 million.

Last year, the city spent $3.1 million to purchase 105 acres for the facility and future development on Clark Boulevard, according to city documents. The land was purchased from Monroe Property LLC for $30,000 per acre.

The new facility will consolidate operations that are located throughout the city or outsourced, Morton has said. This includes water distribution services; the city’s GIS program; equipment and fleet maintenance; and materials storage, he said.

Morton said at this time the city anticipates keeping the existing Public Works facility on Holman Avenue for storage.

The top priorities for the new facility are larger office space, lockers, lunchroom and heated storage space for the vehicles.

“We can’t afford to build what we want to build,” Morton said.

The city needs to determine where the building will be located on the Clark Boulevard property. That may be determined by the cost. He said moving the dirt on the West end of the property would cost about $3 million due to the severe elevation changes.

Moving dirt on the East side would be between $1 million to $1.4 million less, he said.

Acreage not used for the Public Works facility will be considered for future long-term development, city officials have said.

Great Miami River Trail

The city may return two grants worth $1 million and start over on the river trail project, Morton said. Since receiving two $500,000 grants from OKI and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the city has been rejected twice for additional grants to fund the $2 million project, Morton said.

“We have exhausted all resources,” he told committee members.

The city has spent between $600,000 and $700,000 on design work, Morton said.

“We are at a point of starting over,” he said. “I don’t like it.”

He was recently contacted by ODOT representatives who asked about the project’s progress. Morton responded: “We are nowhere. We are in a holding pattern.”

Ben Wagner, a city council member who serves on the park board, said that board recently recommended returning the $1 million in grants. Wagner said the trail project has been “incredibly frustrating” the last 2 ½ years.

Morton said the city can reapply for grants in 2025, but it probably will get denied. He’s hopeful the city will be approved in 2026.

If grants are received, Morton said the city should consider building the trail in phases.

Station 62

Morton said the design team presented three options for the fire station. Eventually, based on needs and costs, Morton said the city probably will select a combination of the three.

The fire station on Ohio 4 needs a larger apparatus bay and training room, Assistant Fire Chief Matt Grubbs told the committee.

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