Officials struggle with aging safety center repairs

By Travis Gulbrandson

travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net

The HVAC system in Vermillion’s Public Safety Center is be too old for permanent repairs, which may result in the police station being relocated some time in the next decade.

Police Chief Matt Betzen discussed the possibility with the Vermillion City Council at the council’s regular special meeting Monday afternoon.

Betzen said the system is being repaired “constantly,” and that an inspector said the chillers had been used beyond their lifespan.

According to an estimate shown to the council last summer, it would take $113,000 to replace the system in the safety center, and $62,000 to replace the one in the county courthouse.

“My best guess is, we’re committing about $3,000 here just to get to the planning stage, which I’m not opposed to, but … I have little confidence that this is going to cost less than $20,000 to $30,000 to replace the chiller,” Betzen said Monday.

Part of the problem is that the system the building uses is obsolete, and it would be replaced with a water chiller.

While the water chiller is more efficient, effective and safe, it is also more expensive, Betzen said.

The city council had allotted $9,000 in second-penny funds toward chiller repairs last year, but none of that money has been used since no repairs were needed this summer, Betzen said.

Basically, there needs to be a plan, he said.

“We can easily cover this on the already-budgeted money, but (City Manager John Prescott) felt – and I agree with him – 2014 might have a surprise as far as the cost of a future expansion … and if you aren’t interested in that, we need to look at maybe not being a part of it,” Betzen said.

A new building would be a part of any long-term plan, he said.

“The county is reluctant on anything that might have any kind of price tag, (but) the sheriff would certainly like to do it,” Betzen said.

He added that he “couldn’t imagine” having a new building in less than five years.

“We’re actually looking at more of a 7 to 10-year range, and somewhere the money has to come,” he said.

The process should constitute determining what is needed, and then finding a location, Betzen said.

He also said he felt the county would be likely to step out of the project based on cost.

“The hope is, by combining the projects we’re actually going to end up with a cheaper project than if we do them separately. … It was a little discouraging when the initial bids came in (last summer) to be much higher than what we looked at, but maybe it was a good opportunity to get over the sticker shock then,” Betzen said.

An estimate acquired by the county last month from Associated Consulting Engineering, Inc., of Sioux Falls lists two condensing units – one for the county and one for the city – as having a combined cost of $4,250.

Council members agreed that they would be willing to pay for whichever of the units was the city’s responsibility, and to consider three other items relating to the safety center.

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