New HVAC at courthouse postponed, again

A can that’s been kicked down the road by Greene County supervisors for decades was seemingly kicked again at the supervisors’ regular meeting Feb. 3. The supervisors agreed with a recommendation by a BBS (formerly Brooks Borg Skiles) mechanical engineer that the balance of a contract for design services for a new HVAC system and window replacement for the courthouse be suspended.

That was the quiet end, or at least another postponement, of a $1.4 million project the supervisors had agreed to in May 2018.

The most recent design work by BBS was started during the summer of 2018. The decision was prompted by supervisor Dawn Rudolph pulling from her drawer at the board table plans BBS had done for the project in 2015.

“We’ve been talking about this as long as I can remember and we need to get something going on this. We’re going to get to where something fails on the boiler and we won’t be able to get parts,” she said, as quoted by GreeneCountyNewsOnline.

The plan calls for replacing the vintage steam boiler and radiators, installing central air conditioning, and eventually replacing all the windows in a second phase.
The 2015 plan had been put in a drawer until some of the needed funds could be set aside. By 2018 there was $400,000 in reserve for the project.

“After 20 or 30 years everybody thinks it’s time for us to move forward rather than worry about it all the time,” board chair John Muir said at the May 6, 2018 meeting. The supervisors decided by consensus to do just that, to move forward.

In June the supervisors okayed an agreement with BBS for design work for the HVAC portion of the project. Fees paid to BBS were not to exceed $134,850 for labor and reimbursable expenses for a completed design, and bidding and construction administration services.

And then the supervisors turned to other business. There were decisions to be made about the RAGBRAI® overnight stop and they were in the first stages of the process to make TIF funds available for construction of the regional career academy.
The supervisors knew at the time that renovations to the courthouse would not be a legally allowable use of TIF funds.

There was discussion of the HVAC project a year ago while creating the budget for the current fiscal year, but money wasn’t included. Instead, the county ended up budgeting about $581,000 for a county ambulance service, a huge increase from the $38,400 the county had paid Dennis Morlan to operate Greene County EMS for many years.

Last week county engineer Wade Weiss received an email from Holly Elbert of BBS. She suggested writing an amendment to the contract between BBS and the county, removing the work not yet done. BBS has billed $64,424, less than half the total contract. Elbert suggested it would better from an auditing standpoint not to have the contract open if the bidding and construction won’t happen. “If/when you are ready to re-start the project, we can generate a new proposal and contract based on the updated scope,” she wrote.

The supervisors aren’t planning at this time to include the HVAC project in the FY21 budget, either. And so, the can has been kicked down the road, again.

Weiss later told GCNO he agrees that it’s better to reevaluate the project at a later date, using the preliminary design work the county paid for in the contract.

“Technology is changing so quickly and I think we may be able to more definitely define the project moving ahead once a funding source is identified. That seems to be the biggest hurdle for the county right now,” Weiss said.

The discussion of suspending the design contract for the courthouse HVAC was part of a two-part conversation Weiss had with the supervisors Monday. He also told them he’s looking at the same BBS expert for suggestions for climate control in the Paul Nally Observation Deck at the top of the Mahanay Bell Tower.

On a hot summer day the top of the bell tower can be sweltering. “With so much glass, it functions like a greenhouse,” Weiss said. He said the bell tower staff has tried different schedules of opening and closing the windows, but without much success. “We’re trying to keep it comfortable all the time. It’s hard to do with that kind of space.”

In other business, the supervisors held a public hearing on the FY21 emergency management budget. No one spoke at the hearing and the supervisors adopted the budget. The budget shows revenue of $32,000 from the county and $1,000 in ICAP grant revenue. Expenditures total $34,283, about $400 more than in the current year, according to emergency management director Dennis Morlan. Of the expenses, $14,000 will go to Region V Hazmat. The remaining will cover mileage, supplies, wages and equipment.

The supervisors heard a presentation by Chamaine Sims, mentoring/prevention assistant for New Opportunities, about the Fun Friends mentoring program (formerly Kids With a Connection). Sims, a 1994 Paton-Churdan graduate, works with the program in Greene, Audubon, Sac and Carroll counties.

Sims described mentors as “caring adults that want to donate their time and their wisdom to a child.” Children in the program are from kindergarten through age 18, and there are many, many reasons children are in the program. “Really, anybody can benefit from being mentored,” she said.

Mentors spend four hours a month with the child, all determined by the two of them and the child’s family. Mentors and children are matched up based on interests.
There are currently two mentor/mentee matches in Greene County and five children on a waiting list until a match is found. Sims would like to see the program thrive. “It’s a fun program with a lot of benefits for kids and adults, both,” she said.

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