By Joey May

The Brown County Commission voted Wednesday morning to move forward on a $300,000 HVAC replacement project at the county jail.

The Brown County Commission voted Wednesday morning to move forward on a $300,000 HVAC replacement project at the county jail.

The commissioners met on the last day of the month for their regular bill-paying session and also heard from representatives of Energy Solution Professionals, who had conducted in-depth studies of the current HVAC system at the jail to determine issues with excess humidity.

President Jeff Flathman, along with two colleagues, told the commissioners that the current jail — although only 11 years old — has major issues with excess humidity and air purification due to the type of HVAC systems that were installed.

Sheriff John Merchant, also present at the meeting, told the commissioners that they didn’t realize it at the time, but all of the HVAC units at the jail are household units, rather than commercial size. They don’t filter the air correctly and he said the issues are causing unhealthy conditions for staff and inmates. He also noted that humidity is so bad that they run dehumidifiers constantly there and noted that firearms are rusting.

ESP was approved for the replacement project at a cost of $298,858 — which will be paid from the remaining funds from the half-cent sales tax that funded the construction of the new jail. In November of 2008 the voters of the county approved a ballot question to implement a half cent sales tax to build a new jail. In April 2009 the sales tax began and was set to expire upon payment of all costs associated with the building of the jail, or by July 1, 2020 — whichever happened first. The jail was paid off early — with the last payment in January 2017 and the sales tax ceased. However, whatever money was still to come in from the sales tax went into a fund for physical needs of the building. There is currently $336,000 left in the fund and the commissioners noted that some of the remaining funds — after the cost of the HVAC replacement has been paid — will go toward additional security cameras at the jail.

ESP estimated the work to replace the 11 rooftop units with new units that come with bipolarization and dehumidifiers built in would be completed in November.

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