The massive equipment bay at the new public works facility. James Snell/The Free Press

Fernie Public Works facility hosts grand opening.

The City of Fernie held the grand opening of its new $6.9 million Public Works facility on Saturday afternoon.

The building, which came in $300,000 under budget, is located on Railway Avenue. It consolidates the City of Fernie Public Works operations under one roof, a welcome efficiency for employees, who have been working in various locations around Fernie.

Zabrina Pendon, Director of Operations for the City provided a media tour of the facility.

“This beautiful new facility marks one of the largest investments that our municipality has made in replacing our facilities,” she said. “We identified in our asset management plan that our facilities are going to require the most investment in the coming year. The significance of this project is big.”

Pendon said the City has several years of investment in facilities ahead. She said the current site used to have a quonset in the middle that housed heavy equipment as well as sand and gravel.

“That [building] had been condemned in 2016,” she explained. “We also had a grader bay that was deemed to be structurally unsound under snow loading. We were not able to go into the building when we needed it the most. As a result we ended up storing our equipment outside for winter 2018. In 2017 we were actually storing it off site at a rented facility.”

Both of those options caused delayed snowfall response in Fernie said Pendon.

“Our new facility has 27,000 square feet,” she explained. “It has allowed us to bring our whole department together, which includes engineering, public works and parks and facilities. So we are already seeing quite a few efficiencies in working together in the same facility.”

Pendon said the new facility allows the mechanical service bays to be directly adjacent to offices and heated storage.

“We have a wash bay where we can fit two graders front to tail,” she said. “That allows us to clean our equipment inside. On the other side of that we have our cold storage that has eight bay doors that allows us to store the rest of our heavy equipment around five to eight degrees.”

The speed at which the facility was built exceeded Pendon’s expectations.

“This was my first time working with precast concrete,” she explained. “Initially in speaking with our contractor, I was a little skeptical about them being able to have the building ready to turn over within five months. But watching the precast panels arrive in Fernie, and watching them go up was incredible.”

Mayor Ange Qualizza said that precast concrete panels reduced the risk of scheduling delays for the project.

“I’m not sure if you saw how quickly the walls went up,” she said. “It was incredible. Four days. This product also provides a design lifespan of a hundred years. It achieves higher building efficiencies and provides for future expansion of the facility, which was intentionally built into the project. By folding seven stand-alone external buildings into one, we will gain efficiencies in personnel, heat exchange and operating costs.”

Pendon said the new facility is a game changer for public works employees.

“We had various members of our group constantly going back and forth between City Hall and the public works facility,” she said. “This enables us to work together and have access to our mapping programs. Now everything is housed in the same building and we are seeing significant efficiencies.”

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Public works boss Zabrina Pendon guides the media through the new facility. James Snell/The Free Press

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