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Fuel may be alternated in Cass buildings

WALKER — Central Services Director Tim Richardson reported the county is now using its option to alternate fuel oil and propane use during the recent shortage of propane.

Cass has a contract for this winter’s propane at about $1.37 cents a gallon, but its distributor began limiting quantities for delivery about two weeks ago, because they were unable to get sufficient deliveries, Richardson said.

He was concerned that the county’s high usage might mean propane would not last between these limited deliveries, so he had Honeywell improve the electrical switching between the two fuels. Now, he can flip a switch to use either fuel.

Richardson ordered a partial fill of fuel oil and has been running the courthouse on oil the last two weeks. The oil cost ran about comparable to $2 per gallon of propane, he said.

When sufficient quantities of propane become available again, the county will switch back to that energy source at the lower contract cost, he said. The county has been able to obtain sufficient quantities for its smaller buildings like highway garages.

Tuesday, the county board approved changes to Richardson’s proposed county buildings maintenance and capital expenditures budgets.

The county has an annual $100,000 building maintenance budget. By shifting money within that budget, Richardson obtained board approval to add installing shut-off valves for plumbing lines in the jail, changing the courthouse sprinkler system to a separate line and removing a crumbling chimney from the old courthouse.

By adding shut-off valves, one jail section can be closed for repairs while others remain in use, he said.

By putting the courthouse lawn sprinkler system on a separate meter and line, water going to the lawn will not go through the water softener.

The county also will avoid paying a sewer fee for water that does not go into the city sewer system, he said.

The chimney being removed has not been in use for a long time and is ready to drop bricks, Richardson said.

Other items approved as a part of the 2014 capital budget, which are still on the list, include replacing and repairing fresh air intake dampers. Those are worn and do not close fully, leading to frozen coils in winter, he said.

Additional energy efficient lighting upgrades, sidewalk and retaining wall replacement and steam and waterline reinsulating after line repairs are planned for the courthouse. A poorly insulated skylight opening will be closed.

Capital improvements planned for county buildings in 2014 are now estimated to cost $423,500, down from a previous $465,000 estimate. The totals include the $100,000 for maintenance.

To improve safety, the county will rearrange entryways for court services and the county attorney office, replace the courthouse fire alarm system and install a generator at the land department building.

Carpet and ceiling tiles will be replaced in the courthouse first and second floors. The county website will be redesigned. Perimeter baseboard electric heat will be installed on the second and third floors of the health, human and veterans services building where ceiling heat does not reach outside walls.

The county will survey and do preliminary engineering to determine whether the parking lot across the street to the south of the courthouse should be paved.