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Amazed that it still works

Fri, Jun 29th, 2001
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Monday, July 2, 2001

In keeping with its own commitment to discuss county facilities on the fourth Tuesday of the month, the County Board met last Tuesday with representatives of Kane and Johnson Architects of Rochester to discuss the heating and cooling system at the courthouse.

Mr. David Kane, principal in the architectural firm, led his team of engineers in an informative discussion with the commissioners that yielded yet another step forward in the courthouse remodeling process. With Mr. Kane were mechanical engineer Stan Maass and architect intern Jason Woodhouse.

As the discussion focused on the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC), engineer Maass pointed out to the commissioners that the current, outdated system is only about 65% efficient, whereas a new system could be as much as 90% efficient.

In describing the antiquated boiler and chiller system, Mr. Maass explained that he is "amazed that they are still working," no doubt a credit to the countys maintenance supervisor. Both Mr. Maass and Mr. Kane also emphasized the important role the courthouse windows play in the efficiency of either the old system or a new one.

The timing of the replacement of the HVAC system and the windows soon became the priority issue in the discussion. "Can you elaborate on timing?" asked Commissioner Duane Bakke.

"It makes sense to do this remodeling all at once," replied Maass, while also acknowledging that county workers comfort level might be disrupted during a construction process.

"Well, there is no comfort level in here now," responded Bakke.

Mr. Kane, who has been working with the county for several years on courthouse upgrades, suggested that perhaps the remodeling could be done floor by floor. The county could vacate the bottom floor, renovate the windows and HVAC system at that level, then re-occupy the floor and move on to the top floor renovations.

However, Kane also pointed out that this scenario could prove to be quite expensive, predicting that a gap in construction would possibly mean different contractors and added administrative costs.

"Where would we move the first floor employees to?" asked County Attorney Matt Opat whose office and staff occupy the first floor.

To this, Mr. Kane and Mr. Maass explained their recommendations for a new HVAC system, with Maass recommending the county go with a new exterior power plant, perhaps in a separate building or underground, that heats and cools water that will run through new piping and be distributed using a zonal fan coil system.

All those present seemed to realize that this recommendation might be the least disruptive to courthouse activities and would allow the county to move forward now with the replacing of the windows.

"I move we authorize them to proceed with new windows," announced Bakke. And as the motion carried unanimously, Commissioner Randy Dahl stated that hed like to see the cost-effectiveness of different window types.

To this, Commissioner Harry Root, turning to Mr. Kane, announced, "Im not an expert on windows, so your recommendation is good enough for me."

"Do you want operable windows?" asked Kane.

"My last job we went with 1/3 operable windows," replied Dahl.

Engineer Maass explained that inoperable windows were better for the efficiency of the HVAC system, but also explained that he, too, liked to be able to get fresh air in his work area. The engineers will look at a cost of having both operable and inoperable windows.

As the discussion concluded, Mr. Kane noted that interest rates are down but construction costs are up, and that the county could expect an increase in cost of 10 to 15 percent over the 1999 "ballpark" estimate of $150,000 for the new windows.

Highway action

In a written memo, the County Board formally announced that it was in final salary negotiations for a new county engineer.

At the top of the candidate list is a highway engineer from Brown County who has requested a higher salary than what was offered. The county offered the engineer a starting salary of $65,346 per year, but the candidate does not wish to drop below his current salary level that will yield him $68,970 in 2002.

Also at issue, the candidate would like to be able to attend both in-state and national engineering conferences. Brown County has approved his attendance at a conference in San Diego, Ca. next winter. County Highway Engineers are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education classes for certification and these conferences provide an opportunity to earn those hours.

In a discussion led by Commissioner Bakke, the board decided to offer the engineer a starting salary of $65,800 that would increase to $68,103 with a 3.5% cost of living raise in 2002.

The board also wrestled with the out-of-state conference request, agreeing that the candidate should be allowed to attend the San Diego conference next year, but that the county would have to develop a national conference policy before a similar trip in 2003 could be approved.

The commissioners also extended the contract with Engineer Gene Ulring to run until a new engineer can be brought into the job. Ulring is working on a part-time, consulting engineer basis to expedite construction projects and to prepare highway department budgets and bid schedules.

Commissioner briefs

On the subject of employee salaries, the County Board also approved a 3.5% cost of living increase for non-union employees in 2002. It was mentioned that the consumer price index is projected at 3.6% for 2002, but nevertheless, the amount set was at 3.5%.

Steve Klotz, of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Division, Lanesboro, came before the board to ask the commissioners to consider selling conservation and/or fishing easements along the Root River on the county farm property.

Klotz informed the board that he had read in the Journal about the Countys intention to sell the large riverfront tract outside of Preston, and though he had not prepared a formal request, he wanted to let the board know that the DNR might be interested in gaining easements before the tract is sold.

"We are certainly serious in selling that property," responded Commissioner Bakke. "We would be looking forward in working with the DNR on that property."

The board also gave final approval for the Conditional Use Permit for the Root River Hardwoods sawmill on County 17, north of Preston. The company had been granted an extension in their application while they developed a solution to their truck loading/unloading on the county road.

A new county ordinance does not allow loading and unloading of log trucks on public roads, a practice that had been common at the Root River Hardwoods saw mill for many years. Fillmore County Zoning Administrator, Norm Craig, informed the commissioners that Root River Hardwoods was now in compliance with the zoning ordinance.

Recently, the County Board set the fourth Tuesday meeting at 9:30 A.M. as a designated time for citizen input to the board. To date, there has been little citizen input at this appropriated time, but citizens are encouraged to come forward with their beefs, or pork for that matter.

By Mike McGrath

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