March 10, 2013

Heating system study OK'd


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite some concerns, Essex County lawmakers are funding an engineering study into why the heating system in the County Public Safety Building has failed.

People who work in the building feel cold, officials said, because the heating system’s boilers don’t generate enough warmth to keep up with exterior cold temperatures.

The county will pay AES Northeast of Plattsburgh up to $7,500 to evaluate the propane heating system at the Lewis facility and recommend fixes.

“At the end of the day, we’ll have specifications so we can go out and get contractors to make the changes,” Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said during a recent County Board of Supervisors meeting. “They (AES) go through this step by step.”


County Department of Public Works Superintendent Anthony LaVigne said the county might even be able to repair the malfunctioning system itself.

“This is basically a preliminary design (from AES). We may not need to develop specs. We may go straight to the manufacturer, or we may be able to do them (repairs) in-house.”

The study will be paid for with leftover funds from the County Jail and Public Safety Building’s construction project account. About $1.2 million is left in the account to pay remaining bills.


But Supervisor Michael Marnell (R-Schroon), a former town highway superintendent, said he thinks the county is wasting money on a study. He was the only lawmaker to vote against the contract.

“Those boilers are supposed to be specified (on) how much gas should be running through them,” he said. “To spend money to tell us that, I think we should look into solving this problem other than that.”

They already tried making modifications themselves, County Manager Daniel Palmer said.

“We made changes, and we’re right back to where we were prior to making those changes. The original design forgot to include this. The design didn’t really work out. We need professional engineering to get this done.”

He said the heating system worked improperly from the first day it was turned on.

They couldn’t go back to the original architect because the firm filed for bankruptcy, Palmer said.

LaVigne said the entire heating system was incorrectly designed.

“There are certain pressure valves that run at a higher pressure than necessary, which causes them to freeze up,” he said.

“The pressures in the system are not where they should be. We need to retrofit several valves to get them to the proper pressures. Also, some valves are not protected from the cold weather.”

Basic and preliminary engineering is covered by the price, LaVigne said, and AES will provide them with details on what to do to fix things.

“The (heat) delivery system is actually designed for a southern clime,” he said. “We have cold weather.”

Email Lohr McKinstry: