2016-12-29 / Local News

Bill to fix county Jail grows by $27,000; board OKs changes

Building never met fire code
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners learned last week that it will cost nearly $27,000 more to replace a heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system at the county’s Law Enforcement Center (LEC).

Additional problems have been discovered in the 11-year-old building. Overall, the project was expected to cost close to $1 million.

A comprehensive replacement of the HVAC system began this fall and is expected to be complete sometime next month.

Earlier this month, contractors and the county’s chief building inspector discovered that certain provisions of the fire code were not met when the building was constructed in 2005. Gaps existed between fire walls and the roof of the building needed to be sealed to bring the building into compliance with the state fire code.

Project manager Kirstin Policastro of the E3 engineering firm told commissioners after examining bids that it will cost $10,200 to bring the building into compliance.

An Upper Peninsula firm, Great Lakes Caulking and Sealing, was one of three companies submitting bids that were sought for the project and the only one whose bids met specifications, she said.

“This is a life safety issue that cannot wait,” said District No. 2 Commissioner Debra Rushton. “We’re not only putting our own employees in jeopardy, there are also people incarcerated in our jail who are at risk.”

The board voted 7-0 on a motion by District No. 3 Commissioner Will Bunek to authorize the contract.

Policastro presented another “change order” on the LEC project to commissioners that, she said, was being recommended by county employees, but not necessarily by the project engineer.

She said there had been a request to add a backup cooling system serving the Jail Control Room that would cost $10,714 to add to the project.

Policastro said the project engineer was confident the additional “mini-split” cooling system was not required but that department personnel and a contractor the county has used for years to maintain HVAC systems at the LEC had requested the change.

She said there is concern that deputies who routinely wear body armor would find working conditions intolerable in the control room if the system failed. They are requesting a backup.

She also noted that the additional expense was not outside an established budget for the project that includes a $32,000 set aside to cover “contingencies.”

The board voted 7-0 on a motion to add the “mini-split” redundancy system to the project.

Yet another issue that is part of the LEC project could cost an additional $5,815, Policastro said. Five new rooftop units came equipped with smoke detectors installed on the return side of ductwork as required by fire codes applicable to most buildings. An additional fire code provision that was apparently overlooked required that the detectors be installed on the supply side of the ductwork instead.

The board voted 7-0 to approve the change. However, after persistent questioning by District No. 1 Commissioner Tony Ansorge, the board stopped short of taking action that would allow the project engineer, Apollo Engineering, to take advantage of a $79,000 tax credit it can apply to the project with the County Board’s approval.

Ansorge said blame for the oversight rests with the project engineer. His motion to authorize the work also stipulated that the cost of the project be subject to further negotiation with the engineering firm.

The issue will likely remain on County Board’s agenda into 2017. Policastro expects work on the project to be completed within the next 30 days.

The LEC 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.

For many years, those working in the building complained of problems with the HVAC system. Earlier this year, the County Board authorized an engineering firm to conduct a detailed study and learned that a complete replacement of the system was necessary, costing nearly $1 million.

Fire code problems in the building were uncovered when contractors opened up ceiling tiles and portions of the roof to install components of the new system.

Devere Construction was the prime contractor on the building in 2005, but its warranty on the building expired about five years ago.

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