County to replace courthouse air conditioning equipment

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Will spend about $50,000

By Calen McKinney

It will soon be cool again at the Taylor County Courthouse.

On Monday, magistrates agreed to replace the courthouse's air conditioning chiller for about $50,000.

The chiller, which is used to cool water, began leaking a few weeks ago, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said. The chiller hasn't worked since.

During Tuesday's meeting, magistrates heard proposals to fix the air conditioning system from Carrier, the company the county currently contracts with to provide maintenance on the system, and Perfection Group.

Rogers said he has declared repairs to the system to be an emergency, which means the county can bypass submitting a request for bids and waiting to receive them and award one.

Perfection Group recently presented a proposal to magistrates that they request bids for an energy-savings performance audit to be done at the courthouse. They told magistrates they can guarantee energy savings as a result of their company doing such an audit.

Magistrates agreed to advertise for energy-saving proposals and asked Perfection Group to research their cost to replace the chiller or to replace a barrel on the current chiller.

Perfection Group representatives presented three ways to fix the system, by either replacing the chiller or the barrel, or renting a chiller until a company does a complete energy-savings audit.

Replacing the chiller, they said, would cost the county $65,000 to $75,000, though doing that will mean the other equipment in the air conditioning system would still be nearly 20 years old. Replacing the barrel would cost about $35,000.

Renting a chiller to provide temporary cooling, they said, could cost between $25,000 and $35,000.

Using a temporary chiller, the representatives said, would allow a company to form a plan to replace the courthouse's heating and air conditioning units in a program that is paid for with energy savings.

If the county bought a chiller from Perfection Group, it wouldn't be able to get one for five to six weeks. As such, the price of replacing the chiller with them would have to be in addition to the $25,000 to $35,000 for temporary cooling until that chiller is available.

Carrier representatives presented two options, replacing the chiller and the replacement of the county's barrel. Carrier can get a chiller in five to seven days, they said.

They said they don't recommend fixing the county's chiller because it is already nearly 20 years old and likely near the end of its life.

Magistrates discussed a Department of Local Government grant that, if awarded, could be used to help pay for the repairs. Receiving the grant isn't guaranteed, Rogers said, and it won't be awarded until May 1.

Magistrate Matt Pendleton said he would like to see the county use Carrier to replace the chiller. He said that is the cheapest option and he believes it is a permanent fix.

He also said the county can receive the energy-savings proposals, but might not be able to afford to pay for what the companies recommend.

Magistrate Tommy Corbin asked the Carrier and Perfection Group representatives what they would do if they owned the courthouse.

The Carrier representatives said they would replace the chiller right away, while Perfection Group staff members said they would do temporary cooling and wait for a complete energy-savings audit to purchase new equipment.

Pendleton said the county could spend about $35,000 for temporary cooling or spend about $15,000 more for a new chiller and permanently fix the problem.

Magistrate Richard Phillips said magistrates have to look at what the county will have to spend to fix something rather than hope they save enough money to pay for new equipment.

After more than an hour of discussion, Corbin made a motion to purchase a new chiller from Carrier at a cost of about $50,000, which includes labor. Phillips seconded the motion.

In a roll call vote, Magistrate John Gaines cast the lone "no" vote. He said he doesn't believe purchasing a new chiller is the best way to fix the problem.

Corbin said replacing it can help the county solve the immediate problem, and then magistrates can move on to considering proposals to save on energy costs.

Magistrate James Jones did not attend the meeting.