Poor air conditioning jeopardizes 911 calls
The geothermal system at New Castle County Police Headquarters is too small to cool the building -- and the deficiency could put people calling 911 during emergencies at risk, officials said.
"This is no joke," said Michael Svaby, a county senior manager. "If somebody calls 911 and the heat disables the system during an emergency call, it's all over. That's a mistake we can't take back."
The county will spend about $500,000 from a capital contingency account to install an above-ground cooling tower that will supplement the underground cooling system, County Attorney Gregg Wilson said.
The new tower should be installed around Oct. 1, Svaby said.
In the meantime, the county will keep using four mobile air-conditioning units at the 911 call center in the building on U.S. 13 to keep the machinery cool.
The machinery would be in jeopardy if the outside air temperature hits at least 95 degrees for three consecutive days, Svaby said. The air conditioners, in use for about a year on the hot days, keep the gear cool enough to prevent a potentially catastrophic failure.
Svaby is grateful that no emergency calls were dropped in the last year, when he said "severe system failures" took place because of the inadequate cooling system. Yet he is concerned that such breakdowns were very close to happening.
"We've seen it come close to failure," Svaby said.
The proposed fix to the system comes only five years after the $49 million facility in Minquadale opened.
Svaby said Tevebaugh Associates, the project engineers, should have known that the system wasn't big enough to cool the building.
Company President James Tevebaugh said he's aware of the issue but hasn't been contacted recently by the county about it.
"We have it under study," Tevebaugh said. "The county is currently acting on its own without our input. We referred it to our engineers and are awaiting their response to the allegations."
Wilson said the contract signed with Tevebaugh in 2003 is substandard and doesn't allow the county to try to get its money back