Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

June 25, 2013

Electrical upgrade plans proceeding


— By LIBBY CLUETT



PALO PINTO – After conducting an electrical evaluation on the Palo Pinto County Courthouse, Level 5 Design Group President Justin Gilmore informed commissioners Monday on the priority, secondary and tertiary needs of the building.

He proposed three major items with part one addressing the historic building's National Electrical Code violations and electrical needs, followed by part two, addressing life-safety issues and, finally, addressing historical preservation and facility needs with part three.

As he showed a variety of violations through projected photos,

Gilmore reviewed what the first part would address, including:

• Panel grounding.

• Relocating panels, mostly placed in janitor's closets. Gilmore said another alternative would be relocating the sinks and capping the water sources.

• Removing and replacing all switch and outlet devices. Although Gilmore said they would not replace switches and devices that were newer.

• Reduce overloading on panels.

• Replace cloth wiring with new, shielded wire.

Gilmore said the number-one issue is panel grounding and said it is “causing a lot of problems.”

“I thought overloading was the potential [electrical] issue,” he said of his thoughts before Level 5 conducted the courthouse assessment. “But it's not; it's grounding.”

Grounding was not an issue when the building was new, he said, but it is now because of demands from current electrical devices.

The cost for addressing part one would be an estimated $170,000.

Gilmore told commissioners Level 5 has worked on many historical buildings, including courthouses, and said, “In comparison, your courthouse is not that bad.”

Part two includes adding a new 250 kVA (which stands for 1,000-volt amps), diesel back-up generator with a sub-base fuel tank capable of a full load for 10 hours and a transfer switch, sized to the full load of the generator. In addition to powering the computers, lights and such, Gilmore said this unit would also operate the heating-ventilation-air-conditioning units, allowing the courthouse to stay in business if the power goes out. He estimates the cost of the generator and switch at $130,000.

In addition, Gilmore said part two would address life-safety issues, such as adding an emergency egress from the upper floors to the rooftops, add an enclosed fire escape to the northwest side of the building and add exit signage and emergency illumination at all exit ways. The cost of these items would be $30,000.

The final part would address an estimated $65,000-worth of historical preservation and facility needs, such as:

• Adding seven historically accurate light fixtures that would provide better lighting in corridors and landings. Gilmore said the current lighting is dim and the areas are dark.

• Update technology in the district courtroom, to include large LED monitors so visitors sitting in the back can see. He said there is equipment that would allow the court to arraign those in jail custody remotely, making a quicker arraignment process. Gilmore also noted that the courtroom offers no hearing assistance, which comes under handicap accessibility.

• Relocating the janitorial areas, if this is the step commissioner want to take, instead of moving electrical panels.

All totaled, addressing the proposed items would cost around $395,000, but Gilmore maintained the figure is high because he likes to avoid having to come back later with a higher bill.

With commissioners' approval to go forward, the next step after Level 5's evaluation and electrical audit would be to draw up a set of engineered documents and plans for bidding.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve allowing Level 5 to move ahead with bid documents.