MOUNT VERNON – The Board of Knox County Commissioners cleared another hurdle in the construction of a new maintenance facility last week, when plans for the facility were approved by the Mount Vernon Historical Review Commission.
The county needed the commission to approve a ‘Certificate of Appropriateness’ for the facility’s construction plans in order to move forward. The four-bay maintenance building will be located at 118 E. Chestnut Street, within the East High Historic District.
Brian Szuch, a representative from the architectural firm ms consultants, told the commission the facility will compare aesthetically to the buildings surrounding it – namely the historic property at 120 E. Chestnut Street (formerly known as the ‘James Beam home,’ now an Edward Jones office), as well as the historic property at 121 E. High Street (formerly known as the ‘Frank L. Beam home,’ now home to the Ariel Foundation).
The facility will also sit next door to the Knox County Service Center, although Szuch said its design will align more with the nearby historic properties.
“[We were] trying to do a building that’s still practical, still meets the size of what they needed, but trying to use materials and the color pallet that would be very fitting with the other two buildings that were there,” Szuch said.
The new facility will house county vehicles, such as the trucks used to plow snow in the winter, and provide space for maintenance work. It will also house maintenance department equipment such as lawnmowers and Bobcat machines.
The facility will contain four bays facing E. Chestnut Street – the middle two will be pull-through bays, used for vehicles; the one closest to the Service Center will serve as a wash bay; and the one closest to 120 E. Chestnut Street will be a work/storage area.
The county bought the $175,000 property from Michael and Jennifer Farmer in September using funds from the Ariel Foundation. Having a centrally located, all-in-one maintenance facility will allow the county to work more efficiently and keep its equipment longer, county administrator Jason Booth said.
According to Szuch, the building will be built using similar material, fenestration details, textures and colors as the buildings at 120 E. Chestnut Street and 121 E. High Street. Both houses were built in the early 1900s and contain a lighter exterior, complemented by darker trim around the doors and windows.
The maintenance facility and Edward Jones building will share an entrance. Szuch said the county is looking to add green space on the property, preferably closer to the maintenance facility.
Before approving the county’s plans, the Historical Review Commission recommended that shutters be added to the northeast side of the building – facing 120 E. Chestnut Street – to break up the monotony of the tan paneling. Szuch agreed to add two shutters to the blueprint.
“I’ll say this, it looks a whole lot better than what used to sit there,” Mount Vernon Safety Service Director Joel Daniels said of the renderings. “I think it’s a nice structure.”
With the Historical Review Commission having approved the county’s plans, ms consultants can now finalize designs before putting the project out to bid. Booth characterized the county’s construction goal as “aggressive,” as it hopes to have the project completed by Dec. 1.
“We would really like to have this built before the end of the year,” he said. “We’d like to get this equipment under-roof before winter starts.”
Previously, the county had stored its lawnmowers and other maintenance equipment in three sheds – one behind the former Central School, one at the Memorial Building and one behind the Service Center. Now, all of the county’s equipment is being stored in a temporary facility because recent renovation projects at each location have forced the sheds to be removed.
The new maintenance facility will have space for the county’s maintenance equipment, as well as its vehicles. The trucks currently sit outside year-round, causing them to deteriorate quicker than if they were housed in a garage.
“I think we can hopefully get longer life expectancy out of the equipment that we’re buying,” Booth said. “The county’s done a good job over the last few years of investing in new equipment for the safety and efficiency of our maintenance operations, and now this gives us a centralized place to store that.”
Additionally, the county currently has to perform maintenance on its equipment in parking lots. Now there will be space to do that under the same roof.
“This is something the county’s needed for several years,” Booth said. “We really wanted to look at having a centralized area for our county vehicles.”
The county purchased the Farmers' three-family rental property in September and demolished the building in March. Depending on how much it costs to build the maintenance facility, the county is considering adding a three-bay carport, which would provide cover for three more county vehicles. It would sit on the back side of the property, facing E. High Street, and would be bordered by landscape screens.