New garage to house 6-7 county trucks

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

The purchase of land close to 430th Street near Pelican Rapids will allow for construction of a new maintenance garage for the county highway department.

Approval for purchase of the property took place Jan. 26 during a meeting of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.

“We will combine Erhard, Vergas and the existing Pelican Rapids garage into one new facility. The old garages are inadequate to even fit some of our newer trucks without removing plows and other equipment,” said County Commissioner Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids.

The new garage will house six or seven plow trucks, one front-end loader, two maintenance pickups, smaller equipment and emergency management supplies.

County Highway Maintenance Supervisor Cristi Field says plow trucks have doubled in size in recent years, going from single axles of the past to the tandem plow trucks we have now. 

“Plow trucks are also getting taller,” she said. “All six trucks currently need to remove their plows before parking the trucks in the garages to thaw them out, repair, and maintain equipment. The current county shops are extremely inadequate.”

Field said there’s a need to consistently repair and heat the old garages. 

“We have safety concerns with the current garages being so cramped. Updates to heating, plumbing and electrical are simply too expensive to warrant following through.”

Commissioner Johnson was informed by Field that the county currently uses the old MNDOT salt shed to the east of Highway 59 for salt storage. The county shares this facility with the city of Pelican Rapids. 

There was severe damage to the salt shed roof during severe weather in 2020. Thus a new salt shed is needed. The new shop will continue to serve several surrounding townships with salt and sand.

Adds Commissioner Johnson, “Otter Tail County is larger in size than the state of Rhode Island and paved roads total 1,062 miles. This keeps the county highway department very busy.”

The maintenance section of the county highway department, headed by Chuck Grotte, includes 33 individuals who provide routine maintenance services to the highways and bridges throughout Otter Tail County.

“These maintenance operations,” notes Johnson, “are divided into five maintenance areas. Historically we’ve had at least 10 garages in various sections of the county.”