County commissioners meet with experts, concerned patrons to iron out HVAC expenditures

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Pratt Public Building Commission members Ryan Lunt (left) and Jack Kennedy (right) met with county commissioners and other key players in the quest for a consensus on public safety building plans last week and again on Monday.

Several public attendees, along with members of the Pratt Building Commission, addressed heating, ventilation, and air cooling system details for the county's proposed Public Safety Building at the Monday, October 19 regular meeting of the Pratt County Commission. 

Wayne Scritchfield, of the civil engineering firm of Kirkham Michael in Ellsworth, said the proposed system is a computer controlled HVAC system, with an air filtration capability that would require the replacement of filters each year at a cost of approximately $20,000 to $24,000. 

PBC members Doug Reh, Ryan Lunt and Jack Kennedy expressed concern for the cost of the proposed plans, as well as the issue of potentially requesting a rebid for a less expensive alternative. Kennedy was not physically present but participated by speaker phone. Kelly McMurphy also participated in this discussion.

The major points discussed by the PBC members dealt with the type of heating and air systems that were bid by Harmon Huffman Construction of Kechi, Kansas, for the new Public Safety Building. 

Reh said a less complicated system would allow people in Pratt to work on the system, utilizing a conventional forced air system with thermostats versus computers. McMurphy commented on the various HVAC systems and the differences in costs versus benefits.

Included in the current bid is a heated floor system for the bay areas. Billy Hampton, County Fire and Rescue Chief, described moving vehicles in and out of the existing building, and the subsequent loss of temperature control. Scott Harris, EMS Director, concurred, adding concerns about periodic icing issues in front of his current building’s bay areas, which create problems with vehicles safely entering and exiting. 

Tyson Eisenhauer pointed out that if material changes in the original bid occurred the entire project might have to be re-bid. The original ten bids were within 10% of one another, from high to low, with the current bid at S6.5 million, with a potential estimated completion cost of up to $7.2 million. He was not in favor of rebidding the project at this point.

Commission Chair Tom Jones opened the discussion to comments from the public attendees.

"There are a lot of reasons to go ahead and bid this building," said Mark Morgan. "The county already owns the land, and there is less traffic out east than where the building is currently located. I encourage you to go ahead and let the bids on the project."

County resident Rick Sanders said he would hope to everything kept as simple as possible for heat and air options.

"Computerized controls can be nightmares,” Sanders said.

Morgan Trinkle, candidate for a county commission seat in the coming election said that he had experience with radiant floor heat and loved it. He encouraged PBC members to keep thermostats and current plans for a heated floor system in the new building.

Robert Smiley, Bill Keller, and Blake Himmelwright all expressed support for the plan on the table to include the floor heating option.

After more comments and questions by Lunt, McMurphy and Smiley, commissioner Joe Reynolds said he was ready to move forward with the project.

“We do not need to rebid this," Reynolds said. "It is not going to save any money. We need to get it done.”

PBC member Kennedy was not ready to concede however.

“The air filtration system costs about $60,000," he said. "You could pay for a new system every three years in what the filters alone cost.”

In light of the impasse, the Public Building Commission members agreed to meet again Monday, October 26, with the county commissioners, to reconvene the discussion.  At that meeting, the PBC unanimously approved a bid of $6,303,600 for the construction of the new safety building. The county commissioners also gave their unanimous approval and current stand accepted, no re-bidding will be necessary.

In other business, commissioners:

* heard a report from Jason Winkle, Director of the Land Fill, on current pricing for ‘metals’ and an estimate of salt for winter operations. 

* heard Sheriff Jimmy White give a brief report on the status of replacement of the doors and windows to update security in the Pratt Law Enforcement Center. He estimated at least 30-45 days before going out with information to the bidders, looking for a start date around March 1 of next year.