The troubled air conditioning system at the Ottawa County Detention Facility is being ousted just in time to tackle the summer heat.
The old refrigeration system will be replaced with one that uses a chiller unit that distributes cooled fluid through a loop system throughout the building at the rear of the Ottawa County Courthouse, said Jim Adkins, Ottawa County building and grounds superintendent.
The old system was installed when the building addition was built around 1980.
“We’ve had problems with it long before I got here,” Adkins said.
The full-service, 48-bed detention facility is the main holding facility for inmates sentenced for misdemeanor and felony crimes in Ottawa County. Its sister jail, the minimum security jail, is located at the City/County Government Building on East Perry Street that was constructed in the mid 1990s.
Over the years, county officials have tried to remedy malfunctions with cost effective quick fixes to keep budget in line, Adkins said. But those fixes aren’t holding up and it’s time to replace the entire system, he said.
The sizzling heat of summer 2010 clinched the decision to replace the stressed out system.
“We replaced the compressor,” Adkins explained. “It’s working but it has continued to have major problems. It’s just not cost effective to keep fixing it.”
In early May, Ottawa County Commissioners approved a $77,724 contract for Warner Mechanical of Fremont to do the HVAC replacement work, according to commissioners’ meeting minutes. The chiller and its accompanying equipment were bought for $52,000 through the state purchase system, Adkins said.
Adkins met with Warner Excavating officials and their excavating crew last week.
Construction work will begin over the next week. And crews will be looking to the heavens for the critical switch over period.
“We cannot just turn the system off. We’re operating at about 50 percent as we speak,” Adkins aid.
“We are going to need a window of about 10 days with good weather,” he said, noting the cooling system will be down for that period.
Should there be a misstep in the weather forecast; county officials are prepared to battle a heat spell by bringing in portable air conditioners to cool inmates and staff in the three-story building.
Whatever the temporary inconvenience, Genoa Police Chief Bob Bratton is glad to hear about the system overhaul.
During his tenure as Ottawa County sheriff, which ended in September 2010, Bratton said the air conditioning system operated at subpar conditions continually and was littered with malfunctions.
“It would get real hot in the facility. It would be unbearable in there. It seemed like we were always pouring money into the system,” Bratton said. “I would hate to calculate how much time and money was spent trying to constantly fix that system.”
He often brought in fans to help circulate the air, but the situations were very trying on morale, he said.
“It may seem like a lot of money (for the replacement) but it’s going to be worth it,” Bratton said.