Contract to replace library air handler on tonight’s city agenda

During the Aug. 6 meeting, the City Commission will consider awarding a $315,000 construction agreement to replace the aged and failing basement air handler at the Great Falls Public Library.

The agreement is with McKinstry Essention LLC and is a project identified through McKinstry’s 2017 energy performance audit performed at the request of the city.

The project will replace the 51-year-old equipment.

The energy audit discovered that some of the current supply air ductwork serving the basement and all of the return air ducts for the first and second floor are under the basement slab at the library and have standing water in them for much of the year.

Storms and flooding downtown on July 6 illustrated how storms cause water to collect in the air handler and the air ducts, creating potentially hazardous conditions for staff and patrons at the library.

During the June library board meeting, Library Director Susie McIntyre said that without daily testing, there’s no way to know if there’s mold or other contaminants in that water that then gets pushed through the air system.

“The new system would provide outdoor-ventilated air to all spaces, thereby eliminating future environmental and air quality health hazards as well as ensuring code compliance,” according to the library staff report.

In August 2017, the city contracted with McKinstry to perform an energy audit of  numerous city facilities including the Civic Center, library, downtown parking facilities, police and fire stations.

The audit resulted in a large, comprehensive list of energy savings projects plus required improvements due to years of deferred maintenance, safety and code compliance issues.

After the initial audit was completed, staff worked with McKinstry to focus and prioritize a list of improvements. McKinstry subsequently solicited competitive bids from area subcontractors based on the prioritized list of projects, according to the city staff report.

Due to budget constraints, the city couldn’t take on all the projects but deemed the library air handler project as critical to keep the library open to the public.

“Because of the urgent nature of the flooding in the library basement and health concerns regarding water in the air handler, this project did not go out for new bids, but will be done as an amendment to the original Energy Performance Contract,” according to the city staff report.

Additional work will be needed to address basement flooding, including a leak around the storm drain pipe and the water rising through cracks and expansion joints in the basement concrete, according to staff.

Those issues are related to the air handler, but the projects will be done separately and the air handler is already included in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The air handler replacement is being funded with $65,000 from the Insurance & Safety Fund and $250,000 from the Library Fund.