Kane County to spend $1 million redesigning heating and cooling system in sheriff’s office, jail

Kane County is set to spend over $1 million redesigning the heating, cooling and ventilation system in the Kane County Sheriff’s Office and the adjoining jail to fix what officials say are ongoing problems with the system.

The Kane County Sheriff’s Office headquarters and adjoining Adult Justice Center have faced problems like inconsistent heating and cooling, poor air circulation and moisture build-up since opening in 2008, according to Roger Fahnestock, executive director of Kane County’s Information Technologies and Building Management​ departments.

He said the building’s age is also starting to catch up with the system.

“We’re approximately 15 or 16 years into the building, and the building’s been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 100% capacity most of the time. The systems are aging out,” Fahnestock said.

Rather than simply replace the aging system, the sheriff’s office requested a plan that would study the existing heating, cooling and ventilation system and re-engineering it to fix the ongoing problems.

At its Feb. 27 meeting, the Kane County Board voted 15-7 to approve a contract with Kluber Architects & Engineers in Aurora to create the plan. Those who voted against the proposal, including District 15 County Board member David Young, questioned the $1.1 million price tag.

Young said the estimated 3,800 billable hours in the contract was excessive, and that he did not understand why the project would require that much work.

“There’s two thousand hours of work a year for one person. That means you need a total of two people to actually do this whole entire thing. That’s all they would do for a whole entire year is go and do measurements?” he said.

Board members Gary Daugherty, Michael Kenyon, Bill Roth, Monica Silva, Bill Tarver and Rick Williams, in addition to Young, voted against the contract.

To explain the price, Fahnestock said the firm will need to send out employees to take measurements and do manual checks of the roughly 271,000-square-foot building.

Many of these areas are restricted and under tight security, which adds additional time to the employees’ billable hours, he said.

“This is not straight hours of, ‘Hey, we’re going to turn an engineer loose. He’ll be done in four hours and walk out,’” Fahnestock said. “You’re going to be at the door controls. You’re going to be in areas waiting for them to clear the hallway. You can’t go into certain areas if they have people there.”

After doing tests, the engineers would then need to review the building’s original heating, ventilation and cooling plans, then fully redesign parts of that system to fix the problems they found while taking measurements, he said.

While ongoing issues like some areas always being too hot or too cold have plagued the building since its construction, several critical failures in the system last year told county staff that now is the time to replace it, according to Fahnestock.

Unlike other county offices, where the employees can just work from home if the heating and cooling system fails, the county’s jail houses those who are unable to leave. This means it is especially important to make that system the most reliable it can be, he said.

After Kluber Architects & Engineers creates a fully engineered plan of the building’s heating, ventilation and cooling system, the county will bid the construction of the project out in pieces, according to Fahnestock. He said the Building Management Department will be working with the sheriff’s office to decide which areas need immediate attention.

The design and engineering of the system should be completed this year, and the first phase of the construction project should start early next year, Fahnestock said.