Administration files $ 12 million for new ventilation system at Duluth Town Hall

She proposes that the bulk of the money, $ 20.7 million, go to support for affordable housing and emergency shelters, followed by $ 13.9 million for investments in public infrastructure.

But the third biggest item in his proposal is $ 12 million to improve heating, cooling and air handling systems at City Hall, a building without air conditioning.

This expense was the subject of considerable discussion at a board agenda meeting on Thursday evening.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, poor air quality at City Hall was reported to need improvement, said city finance manager Jen Carlson, who noted that the building did not meet the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The airborne coronavirus outbreak has only increased the importance of improving the air quality in the building, she said, telling advisers: “COVID has exacerbated the need for this project to happen. . “

A building analysis in March and April 2014 concluded that airflow through the building was poor, with around 20% of staff exposed to excessive levels of carbon dioxide during the working day due to ventilation. inadequate.

Uneven temperatures throughout the building have also been reported, with around 25% of staff working in offices outside the appropriate 68-76 degree pocket.

During the summer, heat also tends to build up in the building, noted chief executive Noah Schuchman. In a letter to councilors, he noted that temperatures sometimes exceed 90 degrees in parts of town hall.

But Schuchman wrote: “While I understand the building is not air conditioned and this part of the project has received the most attention, the need for air conditioning is 1/12 of the cost of the project and a symptom of the most. great publish. “

Carlson said improved air conditioning and air handling systems are needed to protect the health of city workers and the public.

“From my perspective, it’s not about whether we do it or not, but when we do it,” Schuchman said. “We have a problem with the town hall. We have a problem with the air quality and the ventilation in the building.

SEE ALSO: Mayor of Duluth proposes spending $ 58.1 million in pandemic relief funds

The project is seen as an appropriate use of relief funds, according to Schuchman, who said that by using the one-time aid, the city can avoid backing the project and incurring an additional $ 3-4 million in interest and issuance costs.

Larson said funding the project in this way lifts a future burden of $ 15 million to $ 16 million on the shoulders of local taxpayers.

Both councilors Derek Medved and Arik Forsman said they may seek to table the resolution to allow more time to consider how relief funds should be spent, even though the resolution is purely advisory in nature and that individual expenses should always be approved afterwards. by the board.

“We respect the autonomy of the board whether or not this is our preferred timeframe,” said Larson.

“One of the reasons we are presenting this at the first meeting is that if the board chooses to table, you still have the option to take action in July,” before the board takes its summer break, a- she declared.

“To be frank, it would be helpful, before the council recess, to have some clarity that this is the right direction,” Larson said, explaining that city staff could then get down to work to develop more detailed plans during the meeting break.

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