Photo by The North Platte Bulletin
The Lincoln county commissioners agreed Monday to add the designer as another defendant in a lawsuit over the installation of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the courthouse.The HVAC system was overhauled in 2014-15. County officials say the system has never worked correctly. The problem apparently originates in the groundwater well system.
In early January, the county filed suit against the well system contractor, Nebcon Inc. of Omaha, accusing them of breaching the contract. Nebcon has not yet responded to the claim.
On Monday, the county agreed to add the designer -- M.E. Group of Lincoln – as another defendant.
The geo-thermal system was intended to be a unique, efficient method of heating and cooling.
In March 2014, a drilling rig bore a 300-foot well down through the lawn on the north side of the courthouse -- the start of the new geo-thermal system for the building.
If the system works right, underground water, heated thermally to 50-plus degrees, provides a base temperature for heating and cooling.
Water is pumped from below ground into the courthouse and back. It carries 50-degree water into the courthouse and it returns as either warmer or colder water, depending on the time of year. Once the water is underground again, the earth returns it to about 50 degrees.
However, the former maintenance director at the courthouse has said the temperature of the intake water gets too cold in winter, and in summer the intake water is too warm, indicating that draw and return water is mixing somewhere inside the well, which should not happen.
He speculated that sandy soil of that area allows intake and outflow to mix too easily, even though they are supposed to be at widely different levels of the aquifer.
If the water is too warm, or too cold, when it comes into the courthouse, the pump automatically shuts off. That happens daily, a courthouse official told the Bulletin. The trouble increases operating costs and causes more wear and tear on equipment.
Nebcon was fully paid for the job, according to court documents, but the county wants an adjustment.
And, before Monday was over, the county commissioners scheduled an emergency meeting to release any claims of liability against Beveridge Well Drilling of North Platte, who worked on the project. That meeting will be held Wednesday, July 5 at 10 a.m.
In other business, the commissioners:
• Heard from affordable housing director Nancy Striebel and Zoning Administrator Judy Clark, who proposed a housing study.
The last housing study was in 2010, Striebel said.
Striebel and Clark said it would be interesting to see if the “shot in the arm” housing incentives, which resulted in 53 new homes, are alleviating the housing shortage.
Streibel added that her organization, the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation, has also built and renovated some new homes. So has Habitat for Humanity.
The study would not cost the county taxpayers any money, they told the commissioners. Striebel and Clark are expected to return to the commissioner’s meeting next week and ask the board to sign a letter recommending the study, which would become part of a grant application for money to pay for the study. The study would cost around $28,000, they said.
• Tabled an agreement with Maly Marketing for the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitor’s Bureau for further review. The board tentatively agreed in late May to hire Maly to continue to handle advertising for the Visitor’s Bureau, but has not signed the written contract yet.
Maly has been doing the work, handling about $200,000 a year in advertising for a fee of around $20,000 a year. Earlier this year, they submited the lowest of two bids for the work.