Some ongoing issues have combined with more recent malfunctions to keep maintenance staff busy at the Piatt County Public Safety Building in Monticello.
Sheriff David Hunt recited a laundry list of problems at the July 3 building and grounds committee meeting. A majority relate to original HVAC systems installed in 2004 – according to some county officials – but others include computer-assisted doors that don’t open correctly and a faulty sump pump that makes a dispatcher-area restroom unusable at times due to foul odors.
When the temperature gets warm and the humidity rises, the building’s cooling system is having a hard time keeping up, said the Sheriff. The system went down completely last year, making for no A/C for inmates for a day or so. It is operating so far this summer, with contractors topping off coolant levels and performing other maintenance.
The dispatch center is on a separate cooling system and is seeing higher humidity than staff would like to see.
“It’s cooling, but it’s a little muggy,” said the Sheriff.
County Maintenance Director Doug Winder said most of the issues date back to the construction of the jail. County officials have alleged in the past that alterations were made between the original design and actual construction that changed out four smaller compressors for two larger ones, without adjusting the ductwork to handle the larger loads. The assumption is that it has accounted for several costly compressor and condenser replacements on the 15-year-old building.
“It will never function as designed,” said Winder of the two-compressor setup.
“Hasn’t the county spent enough on repairs to replace that unit two of three times over, and we’re still adding to the repair bills annually?” asked committee member Bob Murrell.
“That’s a fair statement, I would say,” answered Hunt.
“So can we anticipate, if we stay on this course, with the same canoe and the same paddle, that we’re going to have the same problems this time next year, and the year after, and the year after,” added Murrell. “I guess what I’m asking for, imploring, is some leadership, some direction, some ideas on how to be better stewards of the taxpayers money.”
The problem, of course, is money, especially in a county that has been operating in the red for the last two years.
“The issue hasn’t been agreeing that things need changed, the issue is the cost, which would be well over $100,000,” added Winder.
In 2015 the cost estimate was $130,000 to rebuild the HVAC system to the original specifications, which were cited as four, 20-ton compressors instead of the two, 40-ton ones that were installed.
Winder noted that the major problems with the public safety building’s infrastructure over the past year have been more traditional wear and tear, and not related to the two-condenser system.
Hunt added that the heating portion of the HVAC works properly.
County Board Chairman Ray Spencer said there may not be a quick fix, but broached the idea of the county setting aside dollars for several years to pay for a more permanent repair.
In other discussion, the committee:
–heard from Winder that there is plenty of light in the Piatt County Office Building, and that some fixtures may be turned off in order to save on energy costs;
–gave Winder the go-ahead to contract for the removal of two dying trees at the courthouse, one which has been shedding limbs onto a public sidewalk. The estimated cost will be around $1,600 to $2,000. Donations for replacement trees are being taken. More information is available by contacting Winder at email@example.com; and
–heard that sidewalk fixes are being considered on the east and west sides of the courthouse.