Heating, cooling units to be replaced at WCSO, county jail

A project recently approved by the Walker County Commission will save the county a lot of money in energy costs alone for years to come.

The bulk of the $700,000 project is to replace HVAC units in the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and Jail. That cost is about $259,500. Johnson Controls, a Hoover-based company, did the design work and will coordinate the improvements.

Sheriff Nick Smith said the upgrades in the sheriff’s office and jail are vital.

“We have about 30 units between the sheriff’s office and the jail. The maintenance alone for all those units is astronomical, especially the oldest of the bunch,” Smith said. “Upgrading those units is very important to us because during these hot Alabama summers that we have, the prison dorms can get stiflingly hot. That is not good for the prisoners or the correctional officers who live and work there. For some inmates, it can become a health problem and increase aggressive behavior because no one likes being in an oven.

“I’m just glad the committee sees the need and the money we can save by replacing what needs to be replaced and repairing what can be repaired,” he continued. “It’s going to make a big difference for us to move forward, especially to the bottom of the province. These units are over 20 years old and we have spent way too much over the years to patch them.”

Other issues to be repaired or replaced in the prison include the insulation of the refrigerant line and an air unit for the kitchen make-up.

Lighting upgrades, moving to LED, will take place in all provincial buildings and a consolidation of the electric meter will take place at the estate’s office.

“The lighting upgrades alone will save taxpayers a lot of money in the coming years,” said Commission President Steve Miller.

The final part of the project is the replacement of a large boiler at the courthouse annex.

“That cauldron is going to explode any minute,” said District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis. “That thing is scary if you haven’t seen it. It’s old and it has to go.”

While the committee approved the project, the contract is subject to regulatory approval from county attorneys. Miller was given the authority to sign the contract once that approval is given.

Representatives from Johnson Controls also said funding is available for the project through COVID funds and other federal funds. The company will help the county apply for funding and determine how much is available as the project progresses.

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