Fiscal court will again accept bids on courthouse repairs

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By Calen McKinney


A committee of magistrates has agreed to recommend that the county advertise for bids once again to replace the heating and cooling system at the courthouse.

The committee will make its recommendation at the next Taylor County Fiscal Court meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m. at the Taylor County Courthouse. It is open to the public.

Earlier this month, magistrates voted to end ongoing negotiations with the Perfection Group to do some upgrades at the courthouse and other county-owned buildings. In all, the upgrades were estimated at costing about $1.4 million. With the project, the county was guaranteed to save about $22,000 a year in energy costs for the next 15 years.

However, magistrates said they believe requiring guaranteed energy savings as part of the project could have deterred some companies from bidding on the work. And, as such, they said they believe bidding again might be appropriate.

Along with their vote, magistrates agreed to have the county's Building and Grounds Committee meet to discuss what its members believe should happen next.

That committee, made up of magistrates James Jones and John Gaines and Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers, met Monday night.

After a lengthy discussion, the group agreed to recommend the county advertise for bids for two different projects, with both using the design build approach.

The first project would include replacing the boiler and all air registers at the courthouse and include installation of a four-pipe system. The other project would call for instillation of a variable refrigerant flow system.

There has been discussion amongst magistrates for months about repairs to the heating and cooling system, which some have said they believe isn't broken and, as such, shouldn't be fixed.

In April, magistrates agreed to advertise for bids for proposals to fix the system and, at the same time, save money on energy costs. Perfection Group was the only company to submit a proposal.

Last month, magistrates agreed to spend the $1.4 million with Perfection Group to do their proposed project. But later in the month, when magistrates were asked to formally sign a contract, they changed their minds and decided to only do repairs at the courthouse.

At their last meeting, when Perfection Group representatives came with a new contract, magistrates voted to end the negotiations.

During the committee meeting on Monday, discussion centered on what direction magistrates believe the county should take.

Ernie Breeding, who performs maintenance at the county's judicial and detention centers, told the group he recommends the county use a design build approach to the project. This, he said, puts the responsibility of designing the project on the contractor, and not the county.

He said the county can send bid invitations this time to ensure that several companies are aware of the project. He said he doesn't know if there are local companies large enough to handle the work.

After bids are received, he said, the county could hire an engineer to examine them, as well as talk to representatives from each company that bids.

Discussion then centered on what the committee members believe should actually be done to get the heating and cooling system working properly.

Rogers said he believes the entire system should be replaced.

"Because half these units don't work," he said.

Breeding said it would likely be best to do all the work at once, if the county can afford that. And doing part of the work now and the rest later might not help make the building more comfortable in the time being.

For example, he said, the county could replace its boiler now and then wait to replace the piping system. But a new boiler without new pipes won't improve the system, he said.

Gaines said he has received several calls from residents and companies about the system. He said he has also done lots of research.

Gaines said he has been told that a variable refrigerant flow system will save about 75 percent on the county's utility costs. But he said he was told the unit is very expensive to install and costly to repair.

Gaines said he wants courthouse workers and the public to be comfortable in the courthouse. He also hopes the new system will allow workers to switch from heating to cooling with the push of a button, instead of having to wait for a worker to switch the system manually.

Gaines said he wants the new system to be computerized and able to be controlled from off-site, such as the systems at the judicial and detention centers.

The committee discussed having an engineer come to the courthouse and look at the current system, though members said they weren't sure who they would choose.

Rogers said part of the courthouse's heating and cooling system was installed in the 1960s. And if the county doesn't do something, he said, the system might not make it through the winter, let alone next spring, when he believes the county might have to wait to replace it.

"We may not get through spring," he said. "We may not get the thing started."

Magistrate Ed Gorin, who also attended the meeting, said he agrees the system needs to be fixed. He said he isn't sure magistrates will support replacing the entire system, but he is agreeable to soliciting for bids.

Gorin said there is $300,000 in the county's budget for repairs to the system and, if the county gets a $200,000 grant it applied for, that makes $500,000 set aside for the project.

Rogers said interest rates are the lowest they likely will ever be and this is the time the county should borrow money for such a project.

"If you're not gonna do anything, shame on us," he said.

Gaines said the boiler leaks and could damage computers and records at the courthouse.

Breeding agreed.

"The longer you wait, the more it's gonna cost," Breeding said. "If you have the money, heck fire, do it all."