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Wadena commissioners tour Highway Dept’s remote shops

Wadena commissioners held a special meeting on March 25 to take part in a “road tour” of the Highway Department’s five garage shops located in Wadena, Verndale, Nimrod, Sebeka and Menahga.  The tour lasted nearly three hours. 

The five shops were built between 1938 and 1989.  Two men each are assigned to the Sebeka, Menahga and Verndale shops and one man is assigned to the Nimrod shop.  The Wadena shop is part of the main Highway Department complex and differing numbers of employees work there, depending on the tasks needed in a particular season.

Each of the shops is home to one or more giant pieces of county road equipment: motor graders and/or plow trucks.  These enormous machines barely fit in the old buildings – some with as little as six inches of side or rear clearance between the machines, the walls and the overhead doors.

In addition to sheltering the machines the garage shops also provide a home base for the assigned workers, where they clock in and out, eat lunch, complete paperwork, perform maintenance on the machines and do other tasks when they are not out on the county roads operating the machines. 

Each shop has one or two equipment bays, a workbench, a tiny bathroom, one or more chairs, a heating system, equipment for cleaning and maintaining the machines, a microwave oven and a few hand tools such as brooms, shovels, hoses, etc.  The Wadena shop is the largest, with several workbenches, racks of tools and multiple bays for road maintenance machines.  The Nimrod shop is the smallest, with just one bay and no floor drain.  The Sebeka shop is large enough to provide space for the Wadena County Sheriff’s Department to store two SWAT vehicles and for the Parks Department to store its pickup truck and other summer-use items.

Commissioners were very interested in the condition of each of the old buildings and the accommodations that Highway employees have made to adjust to the lack of space in three of the five garages.  At the Nimrod and Sebeka shops, employees can’t drink the water that comes from the well.

Odden commented that at some time in the near future, decisions may have to be made about selling or modifying a couple of the shops, since the size of the road machines has already reached the maximum that will fit in the shops.  If manufacturers increase the length or width of the graders or plow trucks, the equipment will no longer be able to be housed in the old shop buildings.