The Carlton County Transportation Building renovation in Barnum is progressing well, said Carlton County Engineer JinYeene Neumann.

The county is upgrading the existing building rather than constructing a new one. The renovation is on track to finish as scheduled in November, Neumann said.

The expansion will add two mechanics bays, giving the county a total of three. The extra space will make it easier for the 12-15 employees who work at the facility to do their jobs, said Rick Norrgard, maintenance superintendent.

"The mechanics bays will be incredibly more efficient," Norrgard said.

The extra space will also allow more equipment to be parked inside out of the elements and increase their lifespan, he said.

Neumann informed the Carlton County Board of Commissioners that portions of the old building have been demolished and the project is moving along fairly smoothly, with a few minor setbacks.

After the concrete floor was removed, contaminated soil about the size of a pickup truck was discovered near a drain. Neumann said the soil is being tested by Braun Intertec of Duluth. Due to the small amount, they will most likely be able to bury the contaminated soil on the property and not have to have it hauled away, she said.

Another issue that caused the project cost to increase is the necessity to drill two wells instead of one, Neumann said. She explained that the old well was rusted and needed to be replaced. They discovered they needed two wells to meet the needs of the new facility.

The project was originally estimated around $10 million but now could be closer to $11.3 million, including a $500,000 contingency. The contingency money is for unexpected issues that arise during the project, such as removing contaminated soil.

The project is being paid through a combination of wheelage tax, bonding and an estimated $150,000 from local option sales tax.

Neumann received permission from the commissioners at the April 27 board meeting to pay for the extra $1.3 million through the general fund. The transportation department will need to repay that money to the general fund over the next five years.

“We have not dipped into that yet,” Neumann said. “We will not know the final price until we are done.”

Neumann said she crossed items off of the budget to save money including a brine building and equipment, saving an estimated $250,000.

“I have cut it (the budget) to the bone,” Neumann said. “This building is not going to be fancy. There will not be any flooring in the office except concrete. It will be functional. We are looking at everything and saying, 'Can we live without this?'”