Sturgis Public Works now under 1 roof

Rick Bush, Sturgis Public Works Director, stands in one of two 12,000-square-foot shops on the new Sturgis Public Works campus. Pioneer photo by Deb Holland

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STURGIS — It truly is Christmas in July for the Sturgis Public Works Department.

Just last week, Public Works Director Rick Bush received the keys to the new Public Works building on Dudley Street. The $4.6 million facility replaces an outdated cluster of buildings that had served as home to only a portion of the city’s Public Works Department. Other divisions were located throughout town.

The city received a rural development loan for the project which will be paid back over 40 years. The new campus features a 7,500-square foot office, administration and training building. This will become the hub for the Public Works Department to start and end their day, while having resources available to do their job.  

It has a large staff meeting area with lockers, a conference room and individual offices for division superintendents. 

The other main buildings include two 120-by-100-foot (12,000 square feet) shops with in-floor heat for maintenance and vehicle storage.  

Other amenities include an interior and exterior wash bay, new fuel island, salt/sand storage, exterior cold storage, new water building, and separate garbage truck storage.

Bush said he is excited to see the new facility come online for the hard-working staff in his department.

“This is for all those who come in at 2 o’clock in the morning to plow snow and who come out to set up for all our events,” he said. “We have a nice facility. There aren’t a lot of frills. I think we did a pretty good job of being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

The old campus included several buildings that were interconnected and added to over the years. The buildings had deteriorated to the point where there was no fixing them, Bush said.

“When we would get snow storms, we were afraid we were going to come in and the roofs were going to be on the top of our equipment,” he said. “When we would get heavy rains, like we’ve had here recently, the water would drip from the light fixtures. It was bad.”

Bush attempted to get a roofing company to fix the problem, but they refused.

“They wouldn’t do it. They told us our trusses were rotted,” he said. “It was getting so bad that we couldn’t even insure our buildings.”

Additionally, the heating and air conditioning were subpar and there were rodents in the buildings. 

Space was at a premium for the Public Works fleet of vehicles. Staff would have to park them at angles to make them fit. 

“In our old shop we were very limited. When we would back in our Vactor truck and our motor-grader you would have to walk sideways in between them and the door,” he said.

In the new facilities, staff will be able to have 360-degree access to the vehicles. 

“We will be able to check the oil, check fluids and parts,” Bush said.

The city has a fleet superintendent overseeing the upkeep and maintenance of vehicles along with two full-time mechanics.

At the new campus, there will be all seven divisions of the Public Works Department, Bush said. They include Administration, Streets, Parks & Cemetery, Water, Wastewater, Sanitation and Fleet Divisions.

The Public Works Department employees are responsible for all street maintenance and repairs, snow removal, stormwater, street cleaning, municipal water, city property maintenance, street lighting, wastewater treatment, city parks, Bear Butte Cemetery, and special event preparations.

The city’s Parks & Cemetery division will move from its current location off Ball Park Road near Sturgis Elementary School. The move was part of a negotiated exchange of land between the city of Sturgis and the Meade School District. As part of the same exchange, the city received land adjacent Francis Case School which was sold and it now occupied by four units of Wildflower Townhomes.

During Phase II of the Sturgis City Hall remodel, some of the city departments will move to the Public Works division locations, Bush said. The Rally & Events department is moving to the south shop off Otter Road during the remodel.

It will be great to have all Public Works divisions under one roof, Bush said.

“The consolidation of the Public Works Department was to better manage our resources – both equipment and personnel. We hope to operate more efficiently,” he said.

Many of the divisions had their own equipment because they were spread out at locations through the community. Those can now be shared among the entire department, Bush said. 

“Now that we are under one roof, we can start to look at trading in two or three pieces of equipment on one nicer one that everyone can share and use,” he said. 

Bush said they are looking to expand cross-training the department’s employees. 

“Whether it’s snow removal or cutting the grass getting ready for Memorial Day at the cemetery, a lot of times we have staff working across divisions. This consolidation will help promote that even more. The whole idea is to use our resources better,” he said.

It could take a while for staff to understand their role in the new setup, Bush said.

“There is still a little uneasiness about how it is all going to work,” he said. “Until we get here, nobody knows. Everybody’s been looking from the outside in.”

There are many components built into the campus that will be new to staff such as the electronic key fobs which will provide entrance to the facility as well as operate the fuel system and open the gates in the yard.

They also have electronic time cards. The information is shared electronically with the city’s finance department.

“It’s all 21st century stuff. It’s more efficient and more effective. We won’t have to spend hours adding up time cards because it will already be done and sent to finance. It will save us both time and money,” he said.

Also included in the new campus is a bulk water dispenser. In the past, the system, which is open to the public, had been coin operated. Bush said users would often show up with a bag full of quarters to operate the machine. Now, users can swipe a credit or debit card.

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