Courthouse thermostats will now be automated
Dan Ingalls, director of Facilities Management, addressed the Butler County Board of Commissioners at the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, requesting permission to solicit requests for proposals (RFPs) for installing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) building automation in the historic courthouse.
The historic courthouse is controlled by individual thermostats. Some of these thermostats are connected to Wi-Fi, which has enabled staff to diagnose some problems when they arise. These thermostats have also given facilities staff some control over those office areas, which saves Butler County money. Other thermostats used in county buildings are typical, everyday ones often seen in residential homes.
"We've experimented with some of these Wi-Fi [thermo]stats ... but we can't lock it out. So, meaning, you can just turn right around and run it up to 80 [degrees] if you want. That's not very efficient. Some of the later models we have, we are able to lock them out to where only we can get in them. But they're still just a thermostat; there's not a lot I can do with it if we're having issues. Not like a full-blown automation program," Ingalls said.
Currently, Butler County has five buildings controlled by building automation. With the automation program's ability to comprehensively monitor HVAC equipment via a computer, or even smart phones, staff are better equipped to troubleshoot problems as they come up. On occasion, they can also correct some issues from their computers, which, of course, speeds up the downtime of equipment.
The board of county commissioners allowed Ingalls to solicit RFPs. Six thousand three hundred dollars is currently budgeted for implementing building automation in the historic courthouse, and that same amount will also be budgeted for the next five years for servicing the system.
Earlier in the meeting, the board of commissioners discussed issues related to the Butler County Jail. The county has repeatedly had to transfer money out of the general fund reserve to the jail fund because the inmate count is down, which means the jail isn't making enough revenue. The Sheriff's Office got rid of inmates at the start of last year out of concern for safety since the jail was understaffed. After the Detention Officer Retention Incentive Program started on Feb. 1, 2017, staffing went up overall – albeit never to the level of fully staffed. That program terminated Dec. 31, 2017. The Detention Facility Revenue Incentive Policy was approved July 11, 2017 in order to reward employees at the jail for hitting targeted revenue goals. In an effort to generate the lacking revenue, the county also increased the per diem rate last year for housing inmates and has been continually trying to gain more revenue inmates. Yet, the jail is still short of what they need on both fronts – employees and inmates.
"We've gone through reserve money to offset the losses at the jail – plus the over budget at the jail. I need to see a plan. Just for, like, rough, ballpark figures, we're going to be around 400,000 dollars short again if we keep going this year," Dan Woydziak, county chairman, said.
In the past week, the daily revenue generated from the county jail has hovered around $5,000. This is less than the $6,000 dollars the jail was making when it housed 174 inmates in mid-December 2017. Yet, it's an improvement from when the jail was making about $4,000 after getting rid of inmates from Sedgwick County and the Kansas Department of Corrections in early 2017 for safety reasons. The jail's current revenue falls significantly short of the goal, though. The facility needs to be generating $6,500 in daily revenue to be on budget. Housing more revenue inmates would help accomplish that.
Additionally, the jail is currently understaffed by five employees. This is about the same as the staffing level in mid-December, and it's better than when the jail was 16 employees short at the start of last year. Once again, it's better – but not where it needs to be. And there's a decent argument that both the inmate and staffing numbers should be at their targeted goals by now – or at least close and well on their way there. But the inmate count has a downward trend now, and the staffing numbers seem to have stalled.
"We made quite a few concessions to get those numbers up and were given some fairly strong assurances that once those [understaffing] numbers came under 10, that the number of inmates would go up considerably. And, actually, they're going down. So, we as a county, as a whole, cannot continue to offset half the 600,000-dollar losses and then still continue to spend money," Woydziak said.
The board of commissioners agreed that discussions on jail issues need to take place with Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet.
The board tabled the following items:
In other items of business, County Administrator William Johnson mentioned that Rosalia had a fire in their fire station earlier Tuesday morning.
"It did some damage to the truck and the building. I talked to Jack Bender this morning about it to see if they needed any assistance from us. 'No,' they said, 'everything's pretty good.' They said it's suspicious. The fire definitely started on the floor, and there's nothing down on the floor. The trash can wasn't where it was supposed to be. And the furnaces are up high, and there's only two outlets," Johnson said.
The fire marshal will visit the Rosalia fire station to assess what happened.
During public comments, Augusta resident Jim Weaver expressed his thoughts and concerns on an upcoming bridge replacement project at 120th and Tawakoni. By the end of his discussion with the board of commissioners, Weaver asked that the project be as non-invasive as possible since he owns the property on both sides of the river that the bridge goes across.