Cowlitz County commissioners award bid for Hall of Justice chiller repair; OK funds for public health services | Government and Politics

The Cowlitz County commissioners Tuesday approved a bid to replace the broken cooling system in the Hall of Justice, where staff have long reported temperature fluctuations.

The commissioners awarded the bid for $306,080 to Northwest Control Company to replace the chiller, which had a “catastrophic failure” and can’t be repaired, said Brad Songhurst, facilities manager. As of September, five of the chiller’s six modules had failed, he said.

The building’s design with huge glass windows contributes to the problem, causing temperatures to vary depending on the sun’s position, said Commissioner Dennis Weber.

Staci Myklebust, clerk of Superior Court, said her office has hit lows of 54 degrees and reaches up to 82 degrees in the summer.

“It gets difficult when there isn’t a constant temperature,” she said.

Songhurst said the replacement work will take about 60 days, but it could take three to four months to receive the chiller once its ordered.

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The building’s heating system also has problems. Songhurst said 40% of the hot water boiler’s heating coils have failed. The boiler is original to the 1976 building and well past its life expectancy, he said. The county is deciding if it can “limp along” or if it will repair or replace the heating system, Songhurst said.

In other business, the commissioners approved an amendment adding scopes of work and a total of $2.3 million in funding to the consolidated contract with the state Department of Health, with Commissioner Arne Mortensen opposed.

The board approved the boilerplate contract on Jan. 11, with Mortensen abstaining.

A majority of the funding is for foundational public health services the county department is required to provide under federal and state law, said Gena James, Health and Human Services deputy director. The amendment includes:

• $1.7 million for foundational public health services, including communicable disease, chronic disease and environmental health prevention and education.

• $78,755 for a Maternal Child Health Block Grant to work with families, agencies, schools and childcare facilities to support children with special healthcare needs and initiate referrals.

• $4,250 for Group A and $25,880 for Group B public water system inspections.

• $460,865 for COVID-19 response, specifically vaccination efforts.

The county health department used some of the state funding last year for the vaccination clinic at the Cowlitz County Fairgrounds, James said. The department doesn’t anticipate holding any similar clinics because vaccines are more available and may not use the funding this year, she said.

A portion of the COVID-19 response funding allocated in this amendment is from FEMA. James said the county has not billed the agency and likely won’t before the funding expires on April 1.

James said she anticipates another amendment with more COVID-19 response funding not geared toward vaccine efforts to come from the state in the near future.