The results of a recent study have yielded several options for the replacement of the antiquated heating and cooling system in the Franklin County Courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa. Bill Bassette, of Topeka-based consultant engineering firm Latimer, Sommers and Associates, presented the study to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners at its study session this week.
The cost of the five system options range from $1.38 million to $1.855 million, although Bassette said those estimates could change. The $1.515-million system, a geothermal system that would use a ground heat exchange to maintain constant temperatures in the building, Bassette said, is the best option in his experience because it is the most efficient.
“The ground-source heat pump system is going to operate cheaper than any of the others,” Bassette said, citing the study that yielded an estimated energy cost for the courthouse of $27,500 annually.
The existing heating system within the building is an old, inefficient steam boiler that provides steam to aging radiators throughout the building, the study showed.
The condition of the boiler is poor, and control of the existing system is antiquated, the study found. Cooling is provided by window air conditioners throughout the building. The windows were replaced a number of years ago, prompted by a $12,000 energy bill, Commissioner Don Stottlemire said. But the replacement windows might not be enough, he added.
“After being down there in the building for several years, anybody who works down there can testify that there’s a lot of incoming and outgoing heat that you don’t notice unless you’re there on a day-to-day [basis],” Stottlemire said.
The system uses the heat from the ground to help maintain balance in the heating and cooling system within the courthouse, despite the exterior ground temperature.
“You don’t have any equipment that is above ground on the outside of the building, which is a real positive on that site,” Bassette said. “That’s the system that I would recommend you pursue.”
After a thorough inspection, the attic of the courthouse appears to be the ideal place to put major equipment, Bassette said, although much of the existing duct work would continue to be used in the system. Latimer, Somers and Associates plans to take great care in ensuring the historical elements of the building are preserved, Bassette said. The 119-year-old building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and its placement on the list restricts certain major renovations.
While an official vote cannot be taken at a study session, the general consensus among the board was to follow Bassette’s advice and go with the geothermal system.
“It costs a bit more, payback’s a bit longer, but it’s more efficient, more environmentally friendly and there’s less hubbub with the building,” Commissioner Steve Harris said. “For me, personally, it’s not about wanting to do something; it’s needing to do something. It’s got to happen.”
The board is expected to vote on the project in the near future after a financing plan has been established.