FAIRHOPE – No one is quite sure how old the Fairhope City Council chamber air-conditioner is, but officials said they do know it is going to be a major job to replace it.
Richard Johnson, Fairhope public works director, described the system as “antiquated.” He said the unit no longer has a working thermostat. Someone has to go into an office and use a switch to turn it on or off.
“Upon my arrival here four years ago, I was put on notice that this air conditioner on this portion of the building was kind of on its last legs,” Johnson said. “We do think it’s original to at least the remodel in 1980 that created this space, so as far as value, we’ve gotten our money out of it. The air conditioner works with an on and off switch over in that office.”
When the building was remodeled, the structure was built around the interior part of the unit. Another section of the system is on the roof, Johnson said. Fitting a new unit into the space could be a challenge, Johnson said.
“If this was a bolt off and bolt on unit, this would be considerably less expensive, but the challenge here is we do require full architectural and engineering design,” he said.
The current system is a 30-ton unit. However, it is using only half the evaporator coil needed for a 30-ton unit reducing its capacity to 15 tons. Johnson said engineers can determine how large a unit is needed for the council chambers.
The City Council voted Monday, Sept. 27, to hire the engineering firm of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood to design a replacement for the system. Johnson said the council can decide whether to replace the unit once they know what will be needed and the expected cost.
“You guys can make the decision that if we want to continue to roll the dice and get as much life out of this one as we can, but then when we finally get to that point, we’re ready to go to bid as opposed to then having to go through the process of selecting an engineer, getting the not to exceed, getting the design done and everything,” he said.
He said officials need to have plans ready to replace the unit.
“The scary scenario is that it kicks the bucket next May and it takes us 90 days to get it replaced,” Johnson said. “That’s the scary part, so at least we want to be proactive and have it at least on the shelf to pull the trigger.”