News

Costly Solution May Be Needed to Replace Faulty Courthouse HVAC System

November 24, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

For more than five decades, the present-day DeKalb County Courthouse has served as home to the court system, offices of local public officials, the election commission, veteran services and for meetings and other purposes.

Built in 1970 through the federal model cities program, the courthouse has served the county well and remains an active place, especially on days when court is in session, but it has also often become an uncomfortable environment due to a faulty chiller boiler heating and cooling system which causes portions of the building to be too hot in the summer and too cold during winter.

Its been a periodic problem for several years and the county has spent signficiant time and money trying to fix it.

Local attorney Sarah Cripps addressed the county commission during a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday night asking that the old and unreliable HVAC system be replaced.

“During the past quarter century, DeKalb County taxpayers have expended tens of thousands of dollars on repairs, replacement parts, and labor costs, all in a vain attempt to keep our old HVAC system limping along. In fact, repairs to the system are ongoing, including repairs to the boiler to remove asbestos and bring it into compliance with current codes as well as repairs to the various wall units throughout the courthouse. In my opinion, it is patently unreasonable to expect a fifty-one-year-old HVAC unit to function at all, let alone operate well,” said Cripps.

County Mayor Matt Adcock said he discovered how serious the problem was when he came into office in September and has taken the initiative to get the system working properly again. He said the sources of the problem have been a faulty sensor which periodically shuts down the cooling system through an alarm which has to be manually reset, and a malfunctioning timer which has had to be bypassed in order to keep the heating system operating.

Although the HVAC is back in operation, County Mayor Adcock said there are more serious issues with the system and it will eventually have to be replaced possibly with a split unit but that will be a significant expense, possibly up to $250,000.

“The courthouse was built in 1970 so I assume the chiller boiler system has the original piping,” said County Mayor Adcock.

“I discovered when I came into office that some of the piping was rusted out so I called a company to come and check out the pipes. They wouldn’t touch it because it wasn’t state inspected so I had to get somebody to come and certify the boiler. The boiler was so far out of spec that he gave me 30 days to comply. I had to put an Estop in and a carbon monoxide detector, an exhaust system, and a pressure relief valve. All that had to be installed in 30 days. When we got that corrected I noticed there was still an issue with it so I got someone from another company to come and look at it because some of the wall units in the building were not working and he determined that rust had impacted in the piping. From the boiler, the pipe on one end is cast iron and on the other end its copper and over time rust has impacted inside that line going to the wall units,” said County Mayor Adcock.

“I asked the man from the HVAC company who inspected it what our options were to fix it and he told me that the best option is a split unit for the entire building and to put condensers on top of the building. I sat down with him and made a short term and long-term plan for our situation. Although I have fixed the air and boiler situation, so we don’t have any heating or air problems right now, this is only a short-term solution to a bigger problem. Long term we will need to invest some money to make split units go to every room in the courthouse so each room will have its own thermostat to heat or cool but it will cost close to a quarter of a million dollars to do the entire courthouse. I have scheduled a time with the HVAC technician and an engineer to come up with a plan,” said County Mayor Adcock.

Cripps’ prepared remarks to the county commission on her concerns are as follows:

“As there have been several new Commissioners seated in our most recent election, the history of the myriad problems with our HVAC system at the DeKalb County Courthouse may prove beneficial to you when making decisions moving forward as how best to resolve our continuing difficulties”.

“The current heating and air conditioning system in our courthouse is the same system that was installed fifty plus years ago, when our present courthouse was constructed. Indeed, our HVAC system is so outdated that the entire building can have ONLY HEAT OR ONLY AIR CONDITIONING. Further, there has never existed any mechanism or method by which each room’s temperature can be controlled individually”.

“During the past quarter century, DeKalb County taxpayers have expended tens of thousands of dollars on repairs, replacement parts, and labor costs, all in a vain attempt to keep our old HVAC system limping along. In fact, repairs to the system are ongoing, including repairs to the boiler to remove asbestos and bring it into compliance with current codes as well as repairs to the various wall units throughout the courthouse. In my opinion, it is patently unreasonable to expect a fifty-one-year-old HVAC unit to function at all, let alone operate well”.

“Earlier this fall, we learned that in order to moderate the temperature on the third floor, those on the second floor were informed that they would have no functioning heat or air conditioning for the entire day”.

“Since 1998, when I returned to DeKalb County to practice law, we have experienced numerous failures of and countless repairs to our courthouse’s HVAC system, none of which have resolved our long-term struggles to moderate the temperature in our two third-floor courtrooms. Typically, our larger courtroom where we hold Chancery, Circuit, and Criminal Court is intolerably cold, while the temperature in our General Sessions Courtroom is uncomfortably hot and stifling”.

“ At some point every summer since 1998, failures in the air conditioning system have compelled various judges to stop court and relocate all litigants, court personnel, and attorneys to City Hall to hold court. This summer was no exception”.

“ On yet another memorable occasion this summer, we had NO AIR CONDITIONING IN THE COURTHOUSE AT ALL on a day when both our Chancery and General Sessions Courts were in session. Chancellor Ronald Thurman moved court from the Chancery Courtroom to the basement courtroom–the coolest place in the courthouse–because of the high temperature in our Chancery Courtroom. On this same date, Judge Cook declared a recess in General Sessions Court due to the unbearably warm temperature in that courtroom and ordered that as soon as Chancellor Thurman adjourned court in the basement, everyone in the General Sessions Courtroom would relocate to our basement courtroom to resume court proceedings”.

“Typically, the temperature in our Chancery and Circuit Courtroom is so cold that it is almost unbearable. We never can predict whether the temperature in our courtrooms will be extremely hot or cold. We are certain only that we will experience extreme heat or extreme cold when various courts are in session”.

“Earlier this summer, Criminal Court Judge Wesley Bray was compelled to abbreviate a Criminal Court docket due to the extremely high temperature in our Circuit Courtroom and moved all motion hearings to another day. Additionally, during a jury trial held on August 10, 2022, the temperature in the Criminal Courtroom and in the jury room was so stiflingly hot that the rear windows in the jury room fogged over”.

“On November 9, 2022, during Chancery Court, the temperature in the courtroom was uncomfortably cold to the point that litigants, staff, and attorneys felt as though we were freezing. Moreover, on Monday, November 14, 2022, during our Criminal Court docket, the temperature in the courtroom was so cold that it was difficult to write, and our noses ran”.

“On Wednesday, November 16, 2022, in our General Sessions Courtroom, the temperature easily exceeded 80 degrees, and the crowded courtroom only served to make it hotter. Thus, Judge Brandon Cox ordered that the windows be raised to make the courtroom temperature more tolerable”.

“I am aware that this Commission has at its disposal One Million Dollars in ARP funds. In addition, litigants in our court system are routinely ordered to remit to DeKalb County court costs, litigation tax, and other fees. Thus, ample financial resources are available that could be utilized to replace our ancient HVAC system. Even if, at some point in the future, DeKalb County elects to construct a Justice Center, the DeKalb County Courthouse would be repurposed for other uses. Therefore, on behalf of the DeKalb County bench and bar, I implore the members of our DeKalb County Commission to ascertain for yourselves the amount of money expended by the County during the past quarter century on attempts to rehabilitate our HVAC system and to consider replacing our outdated HVAC system with a new and functional system of which we all can be proud,” said Cripps.




Judicial Commissioners Up For Appointment Again

November 23, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

The county’s three judicial commissioner positions are up for appointment

During Monday night’s monthly meeting, the county commission will consider the re-appointment of judicial commissioners Tammy Ashburn and Joy Whitman to new one-year terms and the appointment of Gerald Bailiff to the third position replacing David Gash who recently resigned after serving almost two years as a judicial commissioner.

County Mayor Matt Adcock informed the county commission Tuesday night during a committee of the whole workshop meeting that Gash had resigned and that the county’s judicial committee met Tuesday, November 22 to make its appointment recommendations of Ashburn, Whitman, and Bailiff.

The county advertised the vacant position seeking applicants and three applied including Bailiff.

Duties of the Judicial commissioners include processing the following: Criminal summons for the general public; Orders of protections; signing all arrest warrants for the Smithville, Alexandria, and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Departments, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Edgar Evins State Park Rangers, and TWRA Officers; signing search warrants and search warrants for blood draws; signing Mittimus; setting bonds; speaking with every person who has been arrested; answering any and all calls from the public; and attending certification classes three days each year with no pay for hours attended.

Judicial Commissioners are subject to call at all hours of the day and night when on duty. Only one judicial commissioner works at a time during a one-week period on call for 168 hours. They rotate their weeks one week on duty and two weeks off.

The county commission has the sole authority in appointing judicial commissioners and terms may be from one to four years according to state law. For several years the county has had a judicial committee to vet and recommend applicants for appointment to the county commission. The committee is made up of Sheriff Patrick Ray, County Mayor Matt Adcock, Circuit Court Clerk Susan Martin, General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge Brandon Cox, and Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong.

Each judicial commissioner is paid $14,900 per year.




WJLE’s Fearless Forecasters College Football Talk Show Airs Today (Wednesday) at 4:30 p.m.

November 23, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

Ricky Atnip remains the leader among WJLE’s Fearless Forecasters picking college football winners.

Atnip has the best overall record at 133-47 followed by Jared Davis at 129-51, Grant James 127-53, John Pryor 122-58, Scott Brown 119-61, Darrell Gill and Scott Goodwin each at 118-62, and Chad Kirby 116-64.

For the week, Jared Davis and Scott Goodwin tied for the best record at 10-5 followed by Darrell Gill, Grant James, Ricky Atnip, Chad Kirby, and John Pryor each at 9-6 and Scott Brown at 8-7.

Two Fearless Forecasters hit their underdog picks last week. Ricky Atnip added 6 points to his total with Houston’s 42-3 win over East Carolina and Chad Kirby got on the board with 16.5 points as Navy defeated UCF 17-14.

Overall, Ricky Atnip leads in underdog points with 32.5 followed by Jared Davis with 23.5, Scott Goodwin 21.5, Darrell Gill 17.5, Scott Brown and John Pryor each with 17, Chad Kirby 16.5, and Grant James with 11.

Today (Wednesday) the Forecasters will be picking winners in the following games:

Notre Dame at USC, N.C. State at North Carolina, Florida at Florida State, Michigan at Ohio State, Oregon at Oregon State, Washington at Washington State, Louisville at Kentucky, Oklahoma at Texas Tech, Baylor at Texas, Tulane at Cincinnati, LSU at Texas A&M, Arkansas at Missouri, Mississippi State at Ole Miss, Tennessee at Vanderbilt, and in the NFL the Cincinnati Bengals at the Tennessee Titans.

Catch the Fearless Forecasters on WJLE today (Wednesday) at 4:30 p.m. on AM 1480/FM 101.7 and LIVE streaming at www.wjle.com.

The program is sponsored by the Charles D. Atnip Realty and Auction Company, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, FirstBank, DeKalb County Insurance, Gill Automotive, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, Davis Auto Body, and Domino’s Pizza.




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