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updated: 1/9/2014 2:30 PM

Kane County will hire consultant to verify $1M heating fix

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Kane County officials tentatively agreed to spend money Wednesday on a consultant who will tell them how much more money they have to spend to fix a busted heating and cooling system at the judicial center. Early estimates put the price tag at as much as $1 million.

"We are either freezing people -- they come to work and they literally have to use blankets -- or, at other times, we're cooking people," said county board Chairman Chris Lauzen in pitching a plan to hire the consultant to the board's Executive Committee.

"At one point we had our chief judge half-jokingly say, 'Do I have to issue a court order to this fixed?' When I heard that, I had a sit-down meeting with (the impacted parties)."

The result of that meeting was contractor estimates ranging from $500,000 to $1 million depending on which facet of the heating and cooling system must be retooled. That hefty price tag is particularly troubling, Lauzen said, because a previous county board authorized $510,000 to replace the controls for the system less than two years ago. The main judicial center building is 23 years old.

Because the cost range is so vast, Lauzen said he wants to hire Franklin Park-based Hill Mechanical Group to develop a full review of what must be replaced. The company was selected via a recommendation from the architects who designed the judicial center. Despite that connection, Lauzen said the review will be fully independent.

"It's going to be very complicated," Lauzen said. "The recommendation is to invest upfront so we do this right with a third party, independent view."

Whatever recommendations the consultant develops will come through several county board committees before any money is spent on implementation. Lauzen said a necessary part of any plan will be a preventive maintenance schedule that will reduce the probability of more big ticket expenses on the heating and cooling system.

The executive committee agreed to the plan. That action, plus previous agreement from another board committee gives the de facto go-ahead to hire the consulting firm at a cost not to exceed about $40,000. The full county board will take a final vote on the plan next week.

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