Most county officials agree that an $85,000 fix of the heating and cooling system at the Piatt County Safety Building is sorely needed.
But even if it saves the county dollars in the long run, how to pay for up front work could be an issue.
For years, the county has claimed the HVAC system installed in the 2003 structure was not the one from original specifications, and thus overloads the utility infrastructure, making for costly compressor replacements that have well exceeded the amount estimated to fix it.
Currently, a pair of 40-ton condensers run one at a time, but through just one circuit, instead of two as originally designed. The proposed project would replace those with a single, 40-ton condenser, but reconfigure it to run through two circuits, giving it more flexibility in case one circuit goes down.
The new configuration would also have four compressors.
County Maintenance Superintendent Doug Winder said the current, larger unit has trouble gearing down to handle the lighter amount of cooling needed during the fall and early spring, saying it is just too large.
“It’s like running a race car in city traffic. It’s designed for heavy loads,” he said after the Oct. 2 county building and grounds committee meeting.
“With this you will be able to go down to one circuit, and one compressor on that circuit to handle, safely, the lower outside air temperatures for cooling. That point where it’s too warm outside to use outside air, yet not hot enough for a heavy load on the condensing system,” added Winder.
County Board Chairman Ray Spencer admitted, “I think we need to do it,” but noted the county is struggling to balance its 2019-20 budget after losing money in the current fiscal year.
“My thinking is we really need to wait until we get this budget thing straightened out to see where we stand, which is going to be right away,” said Spencer, noting a preliminary budget will likely be seen by the county board on Oct. 9. That document would cover the fiscal year that begins on Dec. 1.
Winder added the project, which currently has two bidders with similar costs, was not in the budget he has submitted to the county board. He did say the up and down temperatures of fall are a period that “our current system does not like. So it may go down. And it may work fine. It’s just something we need to make everyone aware of.”
Committee member Shannon Carroll asked if the fix would result in utility savings. Winder felt it would save some, but had not generated any firm numbers.
The public safety building includes the county jail, which saw its air conditioning go down for about two days last October, but was fixed in time to handle 80-degree temperatures that returned. Sheriff’s offices and the county dispatching center are also located in the public safety building.
One of the final phases in repairing the leaky hot water heating system at the courthouse is on the way. Winder said a water line had been run from the basement to the top floor of the building so that the system can be drained, flushed, final leaks repaired, and refilled.
Last year, water seeped into courthouse offices from broken plugs in some portions of the system, prompting complaints of foul odors and mold. An outside agency inspected the courthouse after most of the fix was completed in the spring and gave its air quality a thumbs up.
In other action, the committee:
–directed Winder to get a termite problem at the Piatt County Office Building taken care of. Termites were found in one of the only wood-walled areas of the building, and the county received a $3,000 bid from Terminix Pest Control to treat it;
–heard from Mental Health Center Director Tony Kirkman that parking lot work at the MHC/PIATTRAN grounds will not begin until at least next spring; and
–was told the next building and grounds committee meeting would be moved up 30 minutes to 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 6. The road and bridge committee will also meet early that day at 7:30 a.m.