by Dave DeMars
The Aug. 6 meeting of the St. Joseph City Council started smoothly enough before Mayor Rick Schultz and Council member Bob Loso began questioning Public Works Director Terry Thene. At issue was the heating and cooling system in the new city office building in which they were conducting the meeting. The building, which houses council and city offices, opened for business a little more than 18 months ago.
The new city hall at 75 Callaway St. E. was built according to plans of Design Tree Engineering, and according to Thene, all the work was completed to specifications. After moving in, city administration and police department personnel began to notice humidity problems in the offices, especially during the summer months. Papers in the offices were damp and sorting machines did not work properly because of the dampness in the offices.
The problem resulted because the building was designed for future full capacity, which included additional staff members. At present capacity, the number of staff members simply don’t require the HVAC system to work at a maximum capacity level and it shuts down before removing dampness and humidity in the offices.
“We would need a full(y) occupied building in order to get it to work (correctly),” Thene said.
After consulting with engineers and contractors, Thene learned the solution to the problem was to add heat to the system so the system would work at capacity level and not shut down prematurely. The least expensive method uses natural gas and would cost about $15,500.
“There’s no other way to get around this,” said City Administrator Judy Weyrens. “The humidity gets up to 80 or 85 percent some days.”
To add a dehumidifier system to the present unit would not be possible because it’s not set up to allow for the addition, Thene said.
“So there is no dehumidifier in the system?” Loso asked.
How many more people would you need to make the system work correctly, Schultz asked.
Thene said he didn’t know the precise numbers Schultz asked for, but added they had gone through the entire system, and had made some changes, but the problem still persists.
“I know the only way to take care of the humidity issue is to add heat to the system,” Thene said, “and that’s what it’s going to take to repair the situation.”
Both Schultz and Loso were astonished at the situation and said it didn’t make sense to add heat in the middle of the summer to make the air-conditioning system work properly.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different offices, and I’ve never come across where they designed it so poorly they had to be at full capacity for an HVAC system to work,” said a frustrated Schultz.
Even if the solution were to be applied, Schultz wondered whether that would solve the problem. There’s no guarantee it would work, Schultz said.
Thene replied he felt the system would work better than at present.
Weyrens interjected and suggested perhaps they should look at the problem and consult with the engineers one more time in the hopes of finding a more viable solution.
“I’m not blaming anybody here,” Schultz said, “it just to me seems illogical we have to heat to cool. And I understand the humidity problem, but this seems like a short-sighted solution.”
“Trust me it took me a while to wrap my head around it,” Thene said. “And after going through everything, our options are limited.”
After a few more comments, the council decided to table the matter until additional information is provided.
Other action items
The council took the following actions:
• Approved an early bond call. The intent for use of the bond has changed and made it necessary to call the bond early.
• Approved a police officer hire to bring the force to full status. The new officer, who has worked part time in the Becker police department, is scheduled to be sworn in at the Aug. 20 meeting and begin work on Aug. 21.
• Approved modifications to the Colts Academy property purchased from the St. Cloud school district. Items such as the card reader for building entrance, phone system and other minor modifications must be made before the building can be occupied. Cost will be about $9,600.
• Approved authorization of an environmental assessment study for the development of property west of CR 2 and east of I-94. The study could be ready in 50 to 60 days.
• Approved modification of the purchase agreement of the old city hall. Because of financial delays, purchaser Aaron Rieland requested the closing date be moved back to no later than Sept. 20. The Bad Habit Brewing Co. agreed to increase mortgage payments to $3,000 per month with a balloon payment in five years.
• Approved a feasibility study for a street maintenance plan for the city. Cost of the project is approximately $21,000. This will facilitate starting the project in the spring of 2019.
• Approved by a vote of 2-1, to contract for lobbyist services to lobby for the city concerns with the state legislators. Cost of the lobbyist is $12,500. Loso voted no.