2016-12-15 / Front Page

Code violations found in County Jail

More county building problems
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS struggled to stay warm atop the county’s Law Enforcement Center this week as they completed work on a major upgrade of the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS struggled to stay warm atop the county’s Law Enforcement Center this week as they completed work on a major upgrade of the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Contractors working on a $1 million upgrade to a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system serving the county’s Law Enforcement Center have uncovered some potentially life-threatening problems in the building.

Project manager Kristin Policastro of the engineering firm E3 told the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday morning that fire walls in the building were not properly installed and are in violation of fire safety and building codes. In addition, smoke detectors were improperly installed and must be relocated.

“The good news is that it isn’t going to cost that much more to fix these problems,” Policastro told the County Board at its regular monthly executive meeting this week. She said she would have specific figures available and a proposal for the County Board to consider at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening.

She said that the head of the Leelanau County Construction Code Authority, Steve Haugen, discovered the fire code violations during a recent inspection. She said interior fire walls that had been specified in the building’s design contained gaps, and no fire sealant had been applied at seams between the fire walls and the roof.

In addition, smoke detectors were installed at the wrong ends of ventilation ducts.

Policastro said the problems were uncovered when contractors removed ceiling tiles and roofing to install new ducts, rooftop units and other equipment as part of the upgrade. She said fixing the fire code violations would be a relatively inexpensive process because ceiling tiles have already been removed and other parts of the roof opened for installation of new equipment.

“These are serious issues because there are obviously people in the building who are not free to just leave the building whenever they want to get out,” Policastro said.

The Law Enforcement Center houses the county jail, the Sheriff’s Office and the 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch Center. The building was constructed in 2005 at a cost of $5.1 million by DeVere Construction.

For many years, those working in the building complained of uneven and ineffective heating, ventilation and air conditioning, often relying on portable dehumidifiers and heating units.

Over the years, the county spent thousands of dollars trying to fix problems in the building with little success until they hired an engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive study of the entire heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems. The study revealed that elements of the system were of the improper size and various components of the system were overpowering each other – requiring a complete replacement of the system.

Installation of the new system began earlier this fall. Policastro said “major work” on the new system should be complete between Christmas and the New Year.

“So far, we’ve required no additional funding for this project,” Policastro said.

She said that cost-savings from having a more efficient system in the building will more than pay for any additional expense required to bring the building into compliance with the fire code.

In addition, the county stands to earn rebates totaling about $30,000 from energy utilities DTE and Cherryland Electric for installing improved energy-efficient systems. Policastro said she thought those rebates alone might cover the additional cost of fixing the fire code problems.

When the LEC was built in 2005, the county’s Construction Code Authority (then called the Building Department) was in turmoil following a lawsuit against the county on an unrelated project. Devere Construction, the prime contractor on the building in 2005, also built the adjacent county Government Center and courthouse in 2008.

Three years ago, Devere was forced to fix and pay for about $200,000 in insulation problems at the Government Center. Its warranty on the LEC expired about five years ago, however.

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