Courthouse faces the big chill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2004

Cold winter temperatures raised a few tempers the day after Christmas when the Butler County Jail closed due to the heating system failing.

What many people didn’t know is that employees in the Butler County Courthouse have had no heat since the latter part of November.

According to Butler County Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams, the piping that conducts heat through the building rusted, leaving offices with no heat.

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&uot;It is a water cooled, water heated system and we had some pipes that were not really insulated that well,&uot; he said Thursday. &uot;Instead of rusting from the inside out, the pipes rusted from outside in.&uot;

That is the official cause, but some employees are working in less than comfortable temperatures. Margaret Phelps of the Voter Registrar’s office said the temperature hovered in the mid forties inside on Thursday morning.

&uot;It is quite cold in here,&uot; she said. &uot;We’re all bundled up to keep warm. The commission sent over a little electric heater the other day. You have to be in close to it for it to give off any warmth.&uot;

Phelps said this problem remains since it began in November when the system went down.

&uot;The commissioners are telling us they are doing everything they can to get in larger electric heaters,&uot; she said. &uot;Today (Thursday) Lee Electric is in the building working on setting that up.&uot;

McWilliams said the commission did purchase electric heaters for various offices in the courthouse as a temporary fix. However, the heaters caused another problem.

&uot;We have had some breakers to flip because the heaters are overloading the circuits, but we are working to fix that problem,&uot; he said. &uot;We are running additional electric lines and we hope they can stay as comfortable as possible. We plan to open bids on Jan. 20th, so until then we don’t know what directions we’ll go in solving the problem.&uot;

McWilliams said the county’s employees remain understanding on the situation and understand the electric heaters are temporary.

&uot;We went out and purchased some electric heaters and some brought their own heaters from home to keep warm,&uot; he said. &uot;They have all been very understanding about the whole situation.

Tax Collector Belle Peavy said she and her staff understand the situation and are doing the best they can to carry on.

&uot;We know our heating system is an old, old monster,&uot; she said.

&uot;In the meantime they are trying to get alternative methods of heating for each office, and that helps.&uot;

Sheriff Diane Harris said she brought in heaters for her offices, and that is helping.

Despite freezing temps at night, no water pipes have frozen, McWilliams said.

That might become more difficult in the next week as a new cold front moves through the area, possibly giving the city its coldest day in years.

While many county employees refused to be interviewed for this story, they all expressed their desire for the situation to be fixed.

Phelps said some of the employees seriously considered taking drastic action.

&uot;Some of us are thinking about going over and spending the day in the commissioner’s office because they have it nice and warm over there,&uot; she said.

McWilliams urged patience and said help is on the way.

&uot;This has been very hard because we didn’t know what we needed,&uot; he said.

&uot;Then it has been hard finding someone who knows how to fix the problem.

But everyone should know we are working on the problem.&uot;