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First step taken to upgrade courthouse HVAC
Firm hired to do feasibility study
courthouse pic new.jpg
The Barton County Commission Tuesday morning took the first step in replacing the heating and air conditioning system in the Barton County Courthouse by hiring a firm to conduct a feasibility study.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Tuesday morning:

• Approved the repayment of Women, Infants and Children grant funds.

During the close out of the Federal Fiscal Year 2021 WIC grant, it was determined that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment had overpaid Barton County by $2,260, Health Director Karen Winkelman said. This overpayment was the result of a benefits calculation. 

• Accepted a COVID-19 award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Health Director Karen Winkelman said Barton County was awarded $17,877.53 in funding. It will be used for COVID-related Health Department expenses, such as a new generator for the Health Department building and employee wages.   

• Approved contracting with Orazem & Scalora Engineering of Manhattan for $4,400 for a feasibility study regarding the replacement the heating and air conditioning in the courthouse.

• Approved the buy-back of a Bobcat skid steer loader.

The Barton County landfill operates a T770 Bobcat skid steer that was purchased with a municipal buy-back option. The landfill has not exercised the buy-back option for five years, Facilities Director/Solid Waste Director Phil Hathcock said. Bobcat of Salina provided an estimate for exercising the buy-back option for a 2021 T770 skid steer for $22,195.12 including trade. 

• Approved the replacement of county computers.

The county has developed a plan for the annual replacement of a certain number of computers. This practice improves the county’s technological capabilities and allows for more consistent budgeting, said Information Technology Director Dereck Hollingshead. 

The Information Technology Department accepted bids through Vendor Registry for the needed equipment. Approved was a bid from SHI International Corp. of Somerset, N.J., for $34,054.

• Adopted the  2022 authorized positions listing.

The listing includes all County positions, including Central Kansas Community Corrections and 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services, since both fall under the umbrella of county operations, Finance/Human Resources Officer Matt Patzner said. 

It’s been talked about for years, but COVID-19 cast a new light on the replacement of the Barton County Courthouse’s outdated heating and air conditioning. On Tuesday morning, the County Commission approved contracting with Orazem & Scalora Engineering of Manhattan for $4,400 to do a feasibility study regarding an upgrade the system and tapping federal pandemic relief funds to cover the cost.

On Sept. 29, Barton County invited proposals for an architectural and mechanical engineering firm to replace the heating and air conditioning system at the building to address building ventilation to increase the air quality, said Facilities Director/Solid Waste Director Phil Hathcock. Two firms submitted qualifications proposals, and those firms were also invited to submit proposals to conduct a feasibility study. 

This study is “the first step in choosing a firm and getting the ball rolling” on the ultimate replacement, he said.

“The courthouse has a two-pipe, forced-water system that’s become antiquated and is in need of replacement,” he said. Current issues include leaking pipes, and he system is either in heating or cooling mode and there is no temperature control.

In addition, it doesn’t allow for building ventilation. Improving air circulation building wide was a requirement for all proposals.

The age of the current system has been a topic of discussion, Hathcock said. The belief is that the chiller dates back to the around 2011 and the boiler to the 1960s or 1970s. 

“It’s not very efficient,” he said. “It’s time for an upgrade.”

There are also individual units in each room.

“They are more problematic than either those two. We’re finding it more and more difficult to find replacement parts for those, and of course the pipes leak all the time,” he said. “So that is a big, big issue at the courthouse.”

Compounding this is the fact the courthouse is 100 years old and made of stone. “That doesn’t make this process any easier or less expensive.”

“I know this is an important decision for us because we are looking at putting federal money into it,” District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “I just hope that whatever we come up with last another 60 years.”

Commissioners have talked for several months about improvements to building ventilation to increase air quality based on COVID guidance from the CDC and the American Society for heating, refrigeration and air conditioning engineers, said Grant and Compliance Manager Sue Cooper. These upgrades would improve the air delivery and dilute potential contaminants. 

Cooper said such changes will qualify under American Rescue Plan Act. “It does specifically state that ventilation improvements to congregate settings, health care facilities and other key locations to enhance public health is acceptable.”