WHAT will become South Gippsland Shire Council’s new south area depot in about 12 months’ time is starting to take shape at a former agricultural supplies outlet in Foster’s Power Street.
The Shire’s then Victorian Government-appointed administration panel resolved to buy the just-over-half-a-hectare property as the next site for the Foster depot at the February 2020 open council meeting, and the offer was accepted in March 2020.
Leongatha-based contractors Considine and Johnson are now converting a showroom in the property’s main building into meeting and training rooms, open plan offices, staff amenities, and storage for smaller items like chainsaws and road signs.
The drive-through section at the rear of the building, with its sliding doors, high ceiling, and existing irrigation and drainage systems, will house vehicles and some larger plant such as tractors and graders, as well as a secure chemical repository.
The second building on the site, once used as a hay and feed shed, will be fitted with an awning to serve as more plant garaging, and the yard’s present gravelled surface will be sealed to minimise dust.
The external walls of both buildings have already been pressure-washed, and their roofs, guttering and downpipes checked and repaired where necessary.
On the future jobs list, too, is re-positioning the entrances and exits of the site further away from the 90-degree Power Street and McDonald Street corner to improve ease of access and safety.
Roadside guardrails to protect the boundary fence line will also be installed following consultation with Rural Roads Victoria.
A wash-down bay, fitted with a triple interceptor to capture and contain water and chemical run-off so it doesn’t enter the township’s wastewater system, is to be constructed.
Another idea being considered is tiered outdoor storage on a section of the site’s northerly slope beyond the main building.
The Shire’s open space and environment manager Joel Goodall said there were two main reasons behind moving the depot from its current position in Pioneer Street, where it has operated from since at least the 1940s though probably rather earlier.
“The present Foster depot is considered to be no longer suitable, mainly because of its location, right in the middle of the town and near houses, and the Foster Secondary College,” he said.
“The Shire wants to get truck and plant movements and noise out of the Foster CBD and away from residents and the school.
“The Power Street site is ideal because it’s in one of Foster’s industrial areas and is much closer to the South Gippsland Highway,” Mr Goodall said.
“The other reason for the change consists of a number of factors; the municipality’s growing population, the outdoor staff’s bigger workload, which now includes managing the Great Southern Rail Trail, and a greater need for more office space.
“The main office building at the Pioneer Street depot is no longer fit for purpose because it simply isn’t big enough to accommodate the supervisors, team-leaders, planners and coordinators who, alongside the outdoor teams, also form part of the Shire’s infrastructure and maintenance staff.
“The outdoor teams based at Foster look after the southern half of the Shire, which is an enormous area extending from Venus Bay to Meeniyan and Dumbalk, and from Walkerville and Yanakie to Port Welshpool and Hedley,” he said.
“The Power Street site gives us the scope to provide much better facilities for everyone who is either based at or who works from time to time at the Foster depot.
“The new main building will have a new kitchen and bathrooms, a lunch room, lockers, rooms for toolbox meetings, training and discussions, and storage for small plant and equipment.
“The office area will feature hot-desk work stations that can be used by many different staff members as required, and a section of it may even evolve into a customer service desk for the local community,” Mr Goodall said.
“There is also the potential for the council to run community connection sessions there in the future.
“The project has received an initial budget allocation of $400,000 to begin the redevelopment of the site, which in addition to the repairs, renovations and fit-out of the main building will also involve installing lighting, heating, information technology, and security systems,” he said.
“There is a lot of work to be done both inside and out before the new depot is ready, which we anticipate will be around this time next year, and it’s fortunate that there’s no need to hurry, because the Pioneer Street depot can and will continue until then.”