Prowers County Courthouse employees are going to have to get used to some changes in the workplace while the HVAC and boiler system undergoes a complete top to bottom overhaul. Work is currently underway on the boiler complex and according to Lee Macke, construction manager of the project and Weston Gouger of 360 Energy, work crews will work after business hours to take down ceiling squares on the 3rd floor of the courthouse. “We’ll move from one room to another in a clockwise pattern and before we begin, all the desks and exposed surfaces will be covered to protect from the expected dust and debris,” he explained to the Commissioners during their February 14th meeting. Macke said that the work crew will have the area cleaned and vacuumed at the end of their shift before the employees return the next morning. The commissioners, engineers, Kirk Powers, Building Maintenance Supervisor for the county as well as department heads, will meet weekly to review past and future work schedules. The building will also be outfitted with LED lighting and needed electrical and plumbing upgrades as the project moves forward.
The commissioners were concerned after receiving word that several employees went home last week feeling ill, apparently the result of inhaling some fumes that came from the basement project. “Make sure you get the names of the employees and the days that happened,” said commission chairman, Ron Cook, “We want to have a record of any incident that takes place like this.” Powers said it may have been the result of a glycol solution that was used to flush some of the pipes before they’re taken away. “We had to use some penetrating solvent like WD-40 on the fittings of the pipes to try to loosen them as they’ve been that way for who knows how many years,” he stated. Powers added that there may still be some chemicals in the pipes and care will be taken when they’re removed. “We’re probably going to have to break some of the pipes in order to remove them,” he told the engineers and commissioners.
Portions of the courthouse will rely on space heaters to supply heat while the pipes leading to the boiler are being drained and dismantled. Plastic tarp is being laid on the cellar floor to catch any liquid spills from the drainage and will then be used to wrap the pipes which are being disposed of. This process will take most of this week.
The ceiling on the third floor starts to come down the week of the 21st. “The ceiling crew will roll in plastic sheeting to cover all the desks, chairs and office equipment after the staff has gone home for the day. We’ll try to get most of the dust cleaned up by the end of the shift, but there may be some still on surfaces we couldn’t protect,” said Weston Gouger. He added that while that is underway, the electricians will begin to hang the new light fixtures and following that, the piping for the HVAC system will start to be installed. It’s estimated that it’ll take ten days to pull all the ceiling down from the lower floors.
Power will have to be shut off to the entire courthouse at a future point, and it will be over a weekend. All staff members will be given sufficient time make any protective measures for computer and other electrical equipment which might be impacted.
The courthouse renovation is estimated at $2,750,000, the majority of which is being paid for from the county budget. Grants had been sought by the commissioners to fund the project, but those were not approved, mostly because of extremely stiff competition for renovation funds throughout the entire state. The City of Lamar will realize some profit from the project, as the building permit fees are estimated at $15,000 following some negotiations between 360 Energy and the City.
By Russ Baldwin
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