July 7th – OTTUMWA – The price was high at over $ 5 million.
Now Ottumwa City Council must decide whether the investment is worth it – and how it will be paid for.
The council and staff received an update on a number of improvements to City Hall, from upgrading the historic building to fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to upgrading the current heating, air conditioning and electrical systems .
The building has been lacking in all of these areas and as the building continues to age and costs remain uncertain it could be more difficult to maintain. Architect Allen Varney of Willett Hofman & Associates and Mike Drahos of West Plains Engineering were on site Tuesday to give officials an update on what the improvements might look like.
Both men were advocates of what they called “Hybrid 2”, the work with the highest value but also potentially the best value for money. A large part of this option would better air-condition the building without wasting any of it. In a way, it would make every room in the building comfortable.
“Small fan coil units would be installed in any room that runs on refrigerant so you can continue to use natural gas and replace the radiators with hot water,” Drahos said. “As in this room (council chamber), we would replace a noisy air conditioner on either end with a quieter one so you can keep the air conditioning and keep the noise level nice.”
Currently the town hall is full of window air conditioners, but air conditioning is not the only aspect of the project. Several rooms and bathrooms would have to be ADA compliant. For example, a one-room bathroom on the second floor would be divided into two bathrooms. Landings and ramps would be built on the outside of the building.
The mere mechanical and electrical upgrades alone would cost $ 1.3 million, said Varney, who estimated a full overhaul of the Hybrid 2 would come in three phases, beginning on the first floor. This cost did not include the lighting recommended by Varney and Drahos as LED.
The story goes on
Other options were also featured, such as geothermal energy, which Drahos said would require tearing down the green space next to the building in order to build wells. The building currently has a basic system. Drahos said it would be the cheapest solution ($ 921,550) but not the best option.
“The building really doesn’t have air conditioning on the second floor, so you can’t have two offices and both have thermostats,” he said. “And we wouldn’t add air conditioning on the floors that don’t have it.”
One of the other key elements is keeping the building’s historic appearance, especially inside with lighting fixtures, etc. Varney said the city building at Cedar Rapids, a building very similar to the Ottumwa building, is required by the federal government to look its historic, and has seen some improvements.
Councilor Holly Berg wondered if heating and air conditioning could be done as a separate piece due to the timeliness of certain funding opportunities.
“It can be a separate job, but we need to have the electrical upgrade with it,” Drahos said. “We would have to have the power to operate the air conditioning.”
The discussion then turned to the financing of a possible project. The city’s finance director, Kala Mulder, said the city must apply for grants, but there is also funds for capital improvements that equate to a grant.
“If we can do some of these other things, some of these rebuilds through grants, then I don’t know why we wouldn’t if it were grants,” she said. “Of course, my goal would be not only to fund the HVAC system so that everyone in the town hall feels comfortable, but also to be efficient in the town hall.”
City administrator Philip Rath shared his experience working in a building that was also undergoing a similar upgrade with air conditioning.
“I would say the benefits of the level of comfort for the building’s residents speak for themselves. It had a big impact on productivity, ”he said. “I think last year we picked up some things that we really weren’t ready for. We’re in a professional position where we can’t be closed to the public for months.”
“So I would just say that these are some of the things that we are considering not only solving today’s problem, but also trying to look ahead and plan future problems that might also exist.”
City officials asked the council for advice on how to proceed as the next steps include finding funding for the project.
– Chad Drury can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ChadDrury
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