Cass Co. Supervisors discuss courthouse improvements & space issues


April 24th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Board of Supervisors spent a great deal of time Wednesday morning discussing space environmental concerns at the courthouse. The Board received the results of a courthouse space needs study from Al Povandra, with Carlson, West, and Povandra Architects.

Al Povandra (far right) discusses the Courthouse needs study with the Cass Co. Board of Supervisors. (Ric Hanson/photo)

The options include moving the Cass County Communications Center to the 3rd floor of the courthouse, Expansion and Security upgrades for the County Attorney’s Offices on the 3rd floor of the courthouse, and expanding the courthouse to the north, to make room for the Communications Center. An option discussed, but not included in the study, was to move the Comm Center off-site, to another location.

The Supervisors had also asked for an evaluation of the current Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. During his report, Povandra said the number one priority for the courthouse should be an updated/upgraded HVAC System. That’s because the current boiler system in nearly 80-years old, and creates uneven heating and cooling to the point where the third floor is so hot in the winter, the air conditioners are running.  Associated with the boiler system, is ACM, or Asbestos Containing Materials surrounding the pipes as insulation.  He says to improve that situation, there should be an investigation into what the scope of the necessary work to remove the insulation will be and the related cost, and then to remove it. The HVAC improvements can take place afterward.

Povandra said a new HVAC system would pay for itself within about eight-years in energy savings, whereas a geo-thermal system, would pay for itself in a much longer time frame. He said the courthouse is currently 50-to 60-percent energy efficient. Another matter of concern before any thought can be given to moving the Communications Center and addressing the space needs of the County Attorney’s Office, is the accessibility of public spaces, such as restrooms.  He says those spaces, especially on the third floor of the courthouse, would need to come into compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act – or ADA – requirements.

Povandra said any changes to the courthouse would cost “Big Bucks,” and it’s something that is not easily done. It also requires officials to convince the public it needs to happen and why. Povandra said depending on the option selected, it would cost anywhere from $800,000 to as much as $3-million dollars to make the necessary improvements. Atlantic City Councilman Shaun Shouse, who is also on the Cass County Public Safety Commission, said the Commission wants more information from the Supervisors with regard to the total amount of space needed, before they make a recommendation on a cost effective solution to current and future problems facing the 9-1-1 Center and the Attorney’s Office. There may also be a meeting between the Council and Supervisors to discuss their mutual desire for space and how both entities can cooperate in a venture, if it is proposed.